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5 Common Causes of a Sore Throat

5 Common Causes of a Sore Throat

You’re likely familiar with the uncomfortable, scratchy, dry sensation that warns a sore throat is on its way. While the occasional sore throat is nothing to worry about, recurrent or persistent throat pain may be a sign of something more serious. 

At Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat, otolaryngologist Scott Bateman, MD, offers a range of treatments for both chronic and acute throat conditions. So, what’s behind your sore throat? Let’s take a look at five common causes.

1. A viral infection

The majority of sore throats are caused by a viral infection, such as a cold or the influenza (the flu) virus. If a virus is to blame for your scratchy, painful throat, you may also experience symptoms including a runny nose, cough, fever, nausea, and headache.

The following viral illnesses often cause a sore throat:

A sore throat caused by a virus will generally clear up on its own without medical intervention. Warm beverages, throat lozenges, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can bring relief in the meantime. 

If your symptoms are severe or last more than a week, however, we recommend coming in or making a virtual telehealth appointment.

2. A bacterial infection

Your sore throat may also be the result of a bacterial infection. Group A streptococcus bacteria are responsible for strep throat, the most common bacterial infection that causes a sore throat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to one in three children with a sore throat have strep throat. While the symptoms tend to be similar to viral upper respiratory infections, strep throat doesn’t cause a cough or a runny nose. Strep throat also tends to develop quickly, within hours of the initial symptoms, while viral causes build over a day or two. 

You may also notice swollen lymph nodes in your neck, small red spots on the roof of your mouth, or white patches or streaks on your tonsils. Strep throat and other bacterial infections are treated with a course of antibiotics.

3. Acid reflux

Acid reflux causes more than just heartburn. It can also damage the tissue in your esophagus and throat, leading to a sore throat, hoarse voice, or the feeling of a lump in your throat. Chronic acid reflux is a symptom of GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The best way to treat a sore throat caused by acid reflux is to address the underlying issue. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can reduce, eliminate, or neutralize stomach acid. 

Dietary changes can also help you manage acid reflux and experience fewer sore throats. Acidic, spicy, or fatty foods tend to trigger acid reflux, as well as caffeine and alcohol. Left unmanaged, acid reflux and GERD can cause complications, such as a chronic cough or difficulty swallowing.

4. Overuse

Yelling, singing, or talking loudly for a long period of time can actually injure the muscles in your throat, leading to pain and hoarseness. Teachers, fitness instructors, and call center employees often experience sore throats due to overuse.

In most cases, a period of resting your voice and some extra hydration are all that’s needed for a full recovery. If your sore throat or hoarseness persists for more than two weeks, however, it could indicate something more serious, such as vocal cord nodules or chronic vocal fatigue. 

5. Allergies and irritants

Immune response to allergens like pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander can trigger a wide range of symptoms, including a sore throat. Post-nasal drip, which occurs when excess mucus runs down the back of your throat, also contributes to throat irritation.

Environmental irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, smoke, and aerosolized sprays can cause a sore throat in some individuals. 

Sore throat? We can help

If you have a recurring or persistent sore throat, a one-on-one diagnostic exam at Sheridan Ear, Nose, & Throat can determine the root cause of the issue so we can develop the most effective treatment plan for you. Call or click to book an appointment at our office in Sheridan, Wyoming, today.

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