What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is a common medical condition that often leads to discomfort and irritation in the throat. It may hurt to speak or swallow when you have a sore throat. There are many possible causes for a sore throat, such as viral or bacterial infections, allergies, dry air, or environmental irritants. It’s important to identify the underlying issue to determine the appropriate treatment.

What does a sore throat feel like?

The sensations associated with a sore throat can vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. For some individuals, a sore throat may feel scratchy and painful, while others may experience a sensation of dryness or the feeling that something is stuck in their throat. These sensations may be exacerbated by activities such as breathing, talking, or swallowing, and can lead to other issues, such as hoarseness, ear pain, or swelling in the neck.

Conditions that result in sore throat symptoms

Sore throats can develop on their own, but they can also be a symptom of many other issues or health conditions. 

  • Viral infections: Common cold, influenza, mononucleosis
  • Bacterial infections: Strep throat, tonsillitis
  • Allergies: Allergy to pollen, mould, pet dander
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Tumours: Tumours in the throat, larynx, or tongue
  • Mouth breathing
  • Irritants: Cigarette smoke, pollution

Prevention and treatment

Sore throats are often caused by viral or bacterial infections. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent sore throats.

  1. Wash your hands frequently: Prevents the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause sore throats.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sneezing, coughing, or have signs of illness
  3. Practise good hygiene
  4. Stay hydrated to keep your throat moist and prevent irritation
  5. Avoid prolonged exposure to allergens

If you do develop a sore throat, gargling with salt water or taking over-the-counter pain medications may help relieve the discomfort. If you experience a severe sore throat or if it persists for longer than a week, do seek medical care. 

Treatment for your sore throat depends on what is causing it. For example, sore throats caused by the common cold will require medications to ease your cold symptoms and for your sore throat. For bacterial infections, antibiotics will be prescribed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of a sore throat quickly?

Gargling salt water regularly and taking sore throat lozenges throughout the day can help to reduce swelling and irritation in your throat.

How long does a sore throat last?

Sore throats usually resolve on their own within a week.

Are sore throats contagious?

Sore throats that are caused by a viral or bacterial infection are contagious. The germs can remain on your body and be transferred to surfaces or even remain in the air.

Will a sore throat go away on its own?

Depending on the cause, it can go away on its own.  However, you should seek medical attention if it persists for more than a week or there are other associated symptoms such as neck swelling, breathing difficulties.