Almost everyone has experience with sore throats, either from a cold or loud cheering at a concert or sporting event. Sore throats usually improve within a few days and are not a cause for concern, but lingering symptoms may require medical attention.
What Causes a Sore Throat?
The most common cause of a sore throat is the common cold or another type of viral infection like the flu, chicken pox, or measles. Children more often have sore throats and colds, but adults can also develop a cold. On average, adults have 2-3 colds every year. A sore throat has also been associated with the most current viral infection COVID-19 and this infection often causes prolonged symptoms. Other possible causes of a sore throat include:
- Overusing your voice
- Environmental factors like pollution
- Acid reflux
- Laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box)
- Tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)
- Strep throat
- Persistent dry cough
Should I See a Doctor for My Sore Throat?
Although sore throats are often not a cause for concern, you should be worried about sore throats lasting more than three weeks or sore throats that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing. Other symptoms to be aware of that could require a doctor’s visit include:
- Fever over 101 degrees
- Pain disrupts sleep
- Bad breath or unusual taste in the mouth
- Swelling in the face or neck
- Visible rashes or sores in the throat or mouth
- Unexplained weight loss
How is the Cause of a Sore Throat Diagnosed?
To determine the cause of your sore throat and develop a proper treatment plan, your doctor will conduct a physical examination with a throat swab and/or blood test. Swabbing the throat helps to rule out strep, COVID-19, the flu, and other viral or bacterial infections.
If you present more serious symptoms indicating a larger problem, we may perform an endoscopic exam that uses a tiny camera attached to a long tube to look inside the throat and esophagus. A biopsy of the tonsils or a lymph node may also be taken, depending on what is found during the endoscopic exam.
How Are Sore Throats Treated?
To alleviate symptoms of a painful sore throat, try warm tea with honey, gargle with warm salt water, and drink plenty of fluids. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. If you receive a diagnosis of strep throat or another bacterial infection, we will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. For frequent cases of a sore throat caused by strep or tonsillitis, we may recommend a tonsillectomy to remove the tonsils and alleviate your persistent symptoms.
AOO | ENT Specialist of the Rockies
Our team of ENT specialists assists patients in the Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch, Parker, and Castle Pines areas. If you have concerns about a persistent sore throat, please contact our multiple-doctor practice to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.