A sore throat is normally the result of a bacterial or viral infection (often referred to as the common cold). In about 30% of cases, no cause for a sore throat can be established. For the record, the throat is the tube that carries food to the oesophagus (the tube that leads to the stomach) and air to the windpipe and larynx. In medical terms the throat is referred to as the pharynx.
A sore throat is often accompanied by tonsillitis (swollen or infected tonsils), and swollen glands in the neck region under the jaw. It may hurt to swallow.
If the sore throat is bacterial or viral, there may also be a high temperature (38 degrees or higher), achy muscles, tiredness, headaches, a cough and even a runny nose.
Why does a sore throat develop?
A sore throat is often only one of the symptoms of a cold. The bacteria or virus involved is usually caught from someone who is already infected. The common cold is spread by tiny airborne droplets when the infected person coughs, speaks or sneezes. By breathing in these minute drops of infection, or touching a surface that these drops have fallen on, then touching your face, the infection can spread from person to person.
Sore throats can be also be caused by irritation from other common causes including cigarette smoke, alcohol, allergies (hay-fever), gastric acid leaking up from the stomach into the oesophagus.
There are two types of sore throat: pharyngitis – where the back of the throat is inflamed, and tonsillitis when the tonsils are inflamed.
Because children and adolescents have not built up immunity against many of the viruses and bacteria, they are more vulnerable to sore throat infections.
Are sore throats serious?
Sore throats are uncomfortable and can usually be treated with over-the-counter remedies. Antibiotics are usually reserved for more serious infections.
Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to relieve the pain associated with a sore throat. Ask your healthcare professional about Adcock-Ingram’s over-the-counter medicines that can provide relief from symptoms. These include a range of treatments for cough, relief from multiple cold and flu symptoms, soothing antibacterial and anti-microbial lozenges with anesthetic properties, allergy relief, and mucus expulsion.
How long does a sore throat last?
A sore throat will last about a week. In a recent study in the UK it was found that within seven days, half the cases had settled down, and that within ten days, 80% of the sore throats had disappeared.
Should a doctor treat it?
General practitioners should be seen if a high temperature remains even after taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, or if the symptoms do not improve within seven days.
Most sore throats can be treated at home.
Avoid food and beverages that are too hot and could irritate the sore throat. Cooler and softer foods and drinks are more soothing. Throat lozenges, hard sweets, ice-cubes or ice lollies may help, and rinsing with mouth-wash (such as warm, salty water), may also help reduce swelling and pain. Drinking enough fluids to help with a fever also helps relieve symptoms.
1. NHS UK. Sore Throat Introduction. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Sore-throat/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed March 2015).
2. NIH Medlineplus. NIH sore throat. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sorethroat.html (accessed March 2015).
3. NHS UK. Causes of a sore throat. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sore-throat/Pages/Causes.aspx (accessed March 2015).
4. NHS UK. Treating a Sore a Throat. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sore-throat/Pages/Treatment.aspx (accessed March 2015).
S1 Medi-Keel A® Throat Lozenges. Each lozenge contains benzocaine 12 mg; cetylpyridinium chloride 1,5 mg. Reg. No. T/16.3/223. S1 Medi-Keel A® Honey and Lemon Throat Lozenges. Each lozenge contains benzocaine 12 mg; cetylpyridinium chloride 1,5 mg. Reg. No. 33/16.3/0496. S1 Medi-Keel A® Blackcurrant Throat Lozenges. Each lozenge contains benzocaine 12 mg; cetylpyridinium chloride 1,5 mg. Reg. No. 33/16.3/0495. S1 Medi-Keel A® Throat Gargle. Each 15 ml solution contains dibucaine hydrochloride 5 mg; benzocaine 30 mg; cetylpyridinium chloride 3,713 mg; benzyl alcohol 60 mg. Reg. No. H/16.3/199. S0 Medi-Keel A® Throat Spray. Each 100 ml contains phenol 0,5 g. Reg. No. T/16.4/184. For full prescribing information refer to the package insert approved by the medicines regulatory authority. ZA.15.CFA.076 04/2015 Adcock Ingram Limited. Reg. No. 1949/034385/06. Private Bag X69, Bryanston, 2021, South Africa. Tel. +27 11 635 0000 www.adcock.com