When a scratchy, painful, irritating feeling is present in the throat, it is often the warning sign of an impending head cold, flu, or illness. While a sore throat can be a symptom of illness, it could also be caused by environmental factors or other health concerns.
Sore throats are one of the most common reasons for visiting a doctor. Our team at iCare ER and Urgent Care is ready to help when medical care is needed. If medical services are required, we will first determine the cause of the sore throat, then identify the best treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and promote healing.
Types of Sore Throats
A sore throat can be classified based on the area of the throat affected by the soreness and irritation. Three types of sore throats include:
- Pharyngitis: A sore throat that affects the tissue right behind the mouth.
- Laryngitis: Redness and swelling that affects the larynx or voice box.
- Tonsillitis: The soft tissue in the back of the mouth is affected.
The doctor needs to determine the area of the throat that is affected, which helps with diagnosis and treatment planning.
Sore Throat Symptoms
The symptoms of a sore throat differ depending on the cause. You might feel symptoms such as:
- Scratchy throat
You might notice that the pain and symptoms intensify when you talk, swallow, or eat. The color of the throat can also be affected. For example, the throat might look red and irritated. Or, you might see areas of pus or white patches, which is commonly an indication of strep throat.
Additionally, you might be experiencing other symptoms if a bacterial or viral illness causes the sore throat:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Swollen neck glands
- Body ache
- Loss of appetite
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty swallowing
What Causes a Sore Throat?
A sore throat can be caused by a variety of things like environmental factors such as dry air, or an infection within the body. The most common causes include both infections and injuries, such as:
- Viral Infections: It is estimated that about 90% of sore throats are caused by viral infections. Examples of common viral infections include the common cold, influenza, mononucleosis, chickenpox, mumps, measles, and more.
- Bacterial Infections: The most common form of a bacterial infection is strep throat, caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. This type of sore throat is common among young children. Other bacterial infections could be sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
- Irritants: Exposure to certain irritants can affect the throat and cause symptoms. Common environmental irritants include tobacco smoke, cigarettes, air pollution, cleaning products, beauty products, and other household chemicals.
- Allergies: Allergic reactions can lead to chronic sore throats. Allergy triggers vary from one person to the next and might include pet dander, pollen, grass, or chemical exposure. When an allergic reaction occurs, it increases mucus production in the nose. Then, this mucus drips down the back of the throat and causes irritation.
- GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when the acid from the stomach moves back into the esophagus. This reaction can cause burning in the throat and esophagus, such as heartburn and acid reflux.
- Dry Air: It is important for the throat and nasal passages to stay wet. When the air is dry, it can pull moisture out of the throat, causing a sensation that your throat is scratchy and irritated. This occurrence is most common in wintertime when the HVAC is running to warm the house.
- Injury: Physical trauma to the throat can cause pain, such as a cut or hit to the throat. A minor injury can also be caused when food is stuck in the throat or esophagus. Another form of throat injury can occur when the vocal cords are strained, such as excessive talking, yelling, or singing for an extended time. For example, teachers or fitness instructors often complain of sore throats after yelling over the noise in a loud room.
- Tumor: It isn’t common for a tumor to develop in the throat, tongue, or voice box, but it is a possible cause of a chronic sore throat.
Home Remedies for a Sore Throat
Most of the time, a minor or moderate sore throat can be treated at home. It is important to get plenty of rest and focus on the healthy habits that support immune function. These steps will help your body overcome the bacterial and viral conditions causing the sore throat.
The discomfort of a sore throat can be relieved using a few first aid treatments:
- Gargle using a saltwater solution, made with 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of water
- Eat cold foods to alleviate symptoms, such as ice cream or a popsicle
- Drink warm liquids that soothe the throat, such as tea, broth, soup, or lemon water
- Add moisture to the air using a cool-mist humidifier
- Minimize talking, singing, and yelling until the symptoms subside
- Suck on a throat lozenge or a hard piece of candy
- Use over the counter pain medication, following the dosage recommendations on the bottle
- Drink liquids to hydrate a dry mouth and throat
Should You See a Doctor for a Sore Throat?
The need to visit a doctor depends on the severity of your sore throat. Since most sore throats are caused by a viral infection, it is likely that the symptoms will go away within a few days or a week. But the severity of the sore throat or the occurrence of other conditions could indicate the need to visit with a doctor.
Visit our urgent care clinic if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe pain and discomfort
- Trouble breathing
- Pain when you breathe
- Stiff neck
- High fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Swelling in the neck or face
- Blood in your phlegm
- Symptoms last more than a week
- Symptoms are increasing in severity
- Sore joints
A doctor will determine the cause of the sore throat before deciding on the appropriate treatment. If the sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, then antibiotics might be recommended to avoid complications. Viral sore throats don’t respond to antibiotics, so you might be told to go home and rest.
Also, it is a good idea to talk to a doctor if you have a frequent recurrence of sore throat symptoms. Our medical staff can help by determining the cause of chronic symptoms, so the underlying health condition can be addressed.
Urgent Care Services for a Sore Throat
If you need to talk to a doctor about a sore throat, then you don’t have to wait for an appointment. We offer on-demand urgent care services in Frisco and Fort Worth. Our medical team is board certified and ready to assist with all of your healthcare concerns. Not only can our urgent care clinic help with common illnesses, such as a sore throat or the common cold, but we are equipped to provide emergency services in the ER.
At iCare ER and Urgent Care, walk-ins are welcome at any time. You can also call or use our online check-in to reduce the time you spend waiting in the office. We are here to help: (214) 407-8668.