Sore throats can be painful and annoying. Fortunately, most sore throats are caused by a minor illness and go away without medical treatment.
Several conditions can cause a sore throat.
Sore throats may be caused by a viral illness, such as:
- The common cold, the most common type of Reference viral infection Opens New Window.
- Infection of the voice box (Reference laryngitis Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window).
- Reference Mononucleosis Opens New Window (mono, "the kissing disease"), a viral infection that tends to cause a persistent sore throat.
- Other viral infections, such as Reference mumps Opens New Window, Reference herpangina Opens New Window, or Reference influenza Opens New Window.
A Reference bacterial infection Opens New Window may also cause a sore throat. This can occur from:
- Reference Strep throat Opens New Window, which usually does not occur with congestion or a cough.
- An inflammation or infection of the tonsils (Reference tonsillitis Opens New Window) and sometimes the adenoids (adenoiditis).
- An infection of the tissues around the tonsils (Reference peritonsillar abscess Opens New Window).
- Inflammation of the epiglottis (Reference epiglottitis Opens New Window).
- Inflammation of the uvula (Reference uvulitis Opens New Window).
- In rare cases, a Reference sexually transmitted infection (STI) Opens New Window, such as Reference gonorrhea Opens New Window or Reference chlamydia Opens New Window. If you have engaged in Reference high-risk sexual behavior, consider whether you may have gonorrhea or chlamydia. For more information, see the topic Reference Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Irritants and injuries
A sore throat that lasts longer than a week is often caused by irritants or an injuries, such as:
- Throat irritation from low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling, or nasal drainage down the back of the throat (Reference postnasal drip Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window).
- Breathing through the mouth when you have allergies or a stuffy nose.
- Stomach acid that backs up into the throat, which may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (Reference GERD Opens New Window). Although GERD often occurs with Reference heartburn Opens New Window, an acid taste in the mouth, or a cough, sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom.
- An injury to the back of the throat, such as a cut or puncture from falling with a pointed object in the mouth.
- Reference Chronic fatigue syndrome Opens New Window, a condition that causes extreme tiredness.
Treatment for a sore throat depends on the cause. You may be able to use home treatment to obtain relief.
Because viral illnesses are the most common cause of a sore throat, it is important not to use antibiotics to treat them. Antibiotics do not alter the course of viral infections. Unnecessary use of an antibiotic exposes you to the risks of an Reference allergic reaction Opens New Window and antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. Antibiotics also may kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous Reference antibiotic-resistant Opens New Window bacteria. For sore throats caused by strep, treatment with antibiotics may be needed.
Reference Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference December 21, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Reference David Messenger, MD