What is a sore throat? A sore throat can be painful, itchy, or tender in the throat area and muscles in the neck and throat region. It may also produce an unpleasant, raspy-like sound when you blow your nose, cough, or spit. The pain usually starts when you exhale and continues until you take a deep breath. How common are sores in the throat? Approximately 5% to 10% of people experience at least one episode of a sore throat. Around 30% of adults have experienced some kind of sinus infection, and around 15 to 20% get them each year. Why does my throat hurt? When bacteria infect your body from somewhere or get into your lungs or digestive tract through food, you often feel symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and/or a sore throat. This can lead you to wonder if a virus or other illness is causing your cold or sinus problems. Many diseases and viruses cause sore throats. Viruses that affect mucus membranes, the nasal passage, and/or respiratory tracts are the most common culprits for sore throats in older people. Common causes include viral infections (respiratory syncytial virus [RSV], rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses), bacterial diseases such as streptococcus and staphylococcus, and fungal infections such as candida (yeast). People with allergies may develop an allergic reaction to a particular ingredient in certain foods. Read more about what irritates your throat and why it may irritate your throat.

Treatment What is the treatment for a sore throat? You cannot relieve any sore throat pain with antibiotics. Treatments for a sore throat will depend on the cause of the problem. If the sore throat is caused by an infection, you may need to use oral antibiotic medications or nasal steroid sprays to reduce symptoms and speed recovery. Use these to reduce the symptoms of a sore throat. Antibiotics aren’t very effective against viruses, fungi, or parasites. However, they may be useful for decreasing itching caused by a cold virus or after getting treated for a sinus infection in addition to treating a sore throat. Cortisone shots may provide relief from mild to moderate allergic reactions to specific ingredients in certain foods. These products or ingredients include soy sauce, wheat germ oil, fish oil, milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts in high dosages. Oral hygiene includes following all directions carefully under your doctor’s supervision using soap, water, a mouthwash, and washing your hands thoroughly when you brush and floss and before eating. Avoid chewing sugar-containing foods. Also, take steps to avoid foods with salt in them. Be sure to watch what you eat. Overconsumption of alcohol will make your throat more susceptible to damage. Some medicines used to treat colds or flu may cause sore throats in children and pregnant women. Talk to your doctor about any recommended or required treatments based on the diagnosis and cause of your sore throat. To learn more about how symptoms develop, read tips on how to manage stress and anxiety and how to help prevent depression. In general, we recommend consulting your primary care provider with questions about a sore throat.

Prevention If you’re concerned about a potential sore throat, or if you suspect a cold or sinus infection and are in the middle of your regular schedule, talk to your healthcare professional. See your doctor for further tests or treatment options, including for sore throat. Remember, though, that sore throat isn’t always a sign that there’s trouble with your health.


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