What is Sore throat? – Causes, Prevention, Home remedies

Sore throat is one of the few kinds of diseases that can go away on its own. In rare cases, it can extend to longer duration and it is advisory to see a doctor in such a condition.

A sore throat marks the arrival of one of the most uncomfortable feeling. Scratchy, burning feeling or painful feel which occurs every time you eat or drink something and irritation in the throat, are some of the common symptoms of a sore throat; a sore throat is caused due to viral infection, which can be due to flu or cold.

Another kind of sore throat can be caused due to streptococcal infection-caused by bacteria. This kind of infection requires treatment with antibiotics to reduce complications, while a sore throat due to viral infection can be cured with the help of certain home remedies and care.

What is Sore throat?

As the name describes sore throat is an infection caused in the throat and tonsils. This infection is mostly caused by viruses. A group A streptococcus bacteria, also known as ‘group A strep’ affects the tonsils.
This bacterium can easily get transmitted from one person to another through droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. It takes a week or 10 days for a sore throat to go away. In some condition, the doctor prescribes a person to take antibiotics.

Did you know? Different parts of our throat may experience soreness and pain due to inhalation of toxic substances like smoke, tobacco etc. There are two common types of sore throat one is pharyngitis and the other is named as laryngitis.

Read the section to learn about the types of sore throat.

Types of Sore throat

Most of the sore throat that one gets in his/her childhood is due to viruses while 3 in 10 cases might be due to bacterial infection known as group A streptococcus or strep.
The type of sore throat is highly contagious and spread through a mild cough or sneeze, sharing food, touching something the infected person might have sneezed on, for example, doorknob, utensils or clothes. The sore throat caused due to strep is more severe and may often start suddenly. Strep can affect people of all ages and can cause rashes or headaches.

List of some types of sore throat are-

  • Epiglottitis

It is a rare type of sore throat which arises due to inflammation in the epiglottis. Epiglottitis can affect children mostly and care should be taken to avoid emergencies like a sudden blockage in the airway.

  • Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis occurs when there is inflammation of the tonsils that are located on either side, at the base of the tongue.

  • Pharyngitis

The pharynx is a soft palate and a common passage area for food, air, and liquids. It is found behind the mouth in the throat. Inflammation in the pharynx leads to pharyngitis which involves severe pain, discomfort, and at times can lead to mild fever.

  • Laryngitis

The larynx allows air passage and sound production. Infection in the larynx is termed as laryngitis. Painful feel arises accompanied by inflammation in the larynx which leads to hoarseness in the voice. Croup is another type of laryngitis which happens to children, it shows symptoms such as a seal-barking like cough-sound and difficulty in breathing.

All types of sore throat make it difficult for a person to eat food or drink any kind of liquid. The entire diet takes a flip-over with a sore throat. A person should stick to freshly prepared hot food and keep the throat area warm by covering it with a warm scarf, also try to avoid aerated drinks and cold stuff for one week or more till you relief from the pain.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

Symptoms of Cold
Symptoms of Cold

All symptoms of sore throat are not the same, symptoms vary depending on the cause of the soreness.
A few symptoms and signs of sore throat are-

  • Difficulty in swallowing any kind of solid food or liquid
  • Increase in pain while gulping
  • Sore and swollen glands in the neck area or jaw
  • Difficulty in talking and muffled voice
  • Redness in the tonsils
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Some people may also experience earache
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Breathing problem, the difficulty might increase at night while sleeping
  • Formation of white patches on the tonsils

In most flu attack sore throat is regarded as the first symptom, after which several other symptoms arise like-

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Body pain-muscle cramps
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Causes of Sore Throat

The prime and one of the common causes of a sore throat is a viral infection. Swelling and soreness can easily arise due to different kind of viruses. Virus that causes flu (influenza), Croup (parainfluenza virus), mumps (mumps virus), mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), and coxsackie A virus (herpangina) are responsible for upper respiratory infections and common colds. Bacterial infection also causes sore throat. Strep throat, diphtheria, retropharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess are some of the sore throat condition that arises due to bacterial infection.

Allergies can also cause a sore throat and it occurs mainly due to seasonal change when allergy triggers are very active. Pollen grains, grass, pet dander are some allergy triggers that cause watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and throat irritation.

Risk Factors of Sore Throat

The risk factor of sore throat is mainly related to lifestyle rather than genetic factors. For some people, the body’s reaction to an allergen can be out of control but there are certain factors which are more responsible (risk factor) for a sore throat-

  • Hygiene

One of the easiest ways to come in contact with viruses and germs is when hands are not washed properly or basic hygiene is not maintained. Germs passed on by such ways increases the risk of sore throat or respiratory-related infection.

  • Flu vaccination

People who avoid getting vaccinated carry a higher risk of infection. An annual shot of flu vaccine can reduce the risk of influenza and sore throat.

  • Location

Flu, viruses causing sore throat can rapidly spread in places where there are a lot of people residing in a compact area, for example, slum area, military training camps and also daycare centres where children are present in huge numbers. If one person carries the virus, it can get easily transferred to a lot many.

  • Irritants and toxins

Smoking cigarette or being exposed to industrial flumes can severely affect and lead to respiratory diseases. Air pollution is the prime reason for the inflammation of the pharynx and other organs present in the throat. Sometimes food ingredients like spicy food, cold drinks, alcohol, and chewing tobacco can cause a sore throat. Extreme use of temperatures with the help air conditioners can lead to irritation in the throat.

  • Voice usage

Singers, talking loudly or the one who delivers a lecture for a long time can carry the risk of developing a sore throat. Using the local cords and the muscles of the throat for a prolonged period leads to soreness

  • Seasonal change

Change in the atmosphere can affect a person severely as with the change of season dust ration, different types of antigens presence increases in the air therefore one must be prepared and avoid such risk.

Diagnosis of Sore Throat

If a sore throat persists for more than 1 week then it is advisory to consult with the doctor. The doctor at first starts with a physical examination that includes-

  • The throat is examined with the help of a lighted device
  • Nasal and ear passage might also get checked
  • Gentle press in the neck area to check the swollen glands
  • Breathing rhythm check with a stethoscope

To detect if the patient is infected by the streptococcal bacteria, the doctor carries out a lab test to check the sample of secretions that is collected by rubbing a sterile swap over the back of the throat.

Treatment of Sore Throat

A viral sore throat infection lasts for 5 to 7 days, it can be cured with the help of home remedies and mild pain relievers. For children, it is safe to not experiment with medicine or leave the condition n to get better on its own. If the condition n last for more than 2 days, giving aspirin to infants, children or teenagers is a life-threatening thing as it is linked to Reye’s syndrome-causes swelling in the brain and liver.

Effective home remedy treatment is gargle with warm water by adding salt in it. Gargle for at least 2 times a day to gain relief from the throat pain.

Prevention of Sore Throat

Sore throat is contagious if it is virus infected. To prevent it, try to maintain basic hygiene, use an alcohol-based sanitizer, don’t sleep with a open mouth-breathing in this way is very harmful, avoid areas where the air quality is bad, take breaks and avoid talking for long hours in a loud voice, use a scarf or mask to cover your face from dust and antigens present in the air.

What to avoid during Sore Throat?

Food habits have seen to affect a sore throat adversely. Therefore it is advisory to stay away from certain food and food ingredients that can agitate or irritate the throat and worsen it. List food that should not be eaten while having a sore throat-

  • Crusty bread
  • Raw vegetable
  • Frozen fruits
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Acidic fruits like oranges, grapes etc
  • Crackers
  • Dairy products-increases mucus production

What to eat if you have a Sore Throat?

What to eat if you have a Sore Throat?
What to eat if you have a Sore Throat?

Sore throat occurs when there is an infection in the throat area due to which consuming food and drinks become difficult. Try to switch to a diet which includes food that is soft and easy to swallow without causing too much pain in the throat. Soft texture food also helps to slow down the irritation. A warm cup of ginger tea or other warm food and drinks can help to soothe the pain of the neck and also reduce the swelling. Consume foods like-

  • Cooked vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes with khichri(Indian dish cooked with rice and lentils)
  • Hot soups
  • Hard-boiled eggs or scrambled eggs
  • Cooked oatmeal
  • Non-acidic juices like apple juice
  • Vegetable or fruit smoothies
  • Hot herbal tea
  • Warm water
  • Thoroughly cooked noodles or pasta

What to do when someone is suffering from Sore Throat?

Like any other illness, sore throat also requires proper care. Certain things can be taken care of at home very easily and it turns out to be the most effective one too-

  • One teaspoon of honey

Consuming one teaspoon of honey before going to bed can soothe your neck; you can also add honey with warm water for at day time.

  • Gargle with saltwater

In a glass of warm water add a tablespoon of salt and gargle regularly twice a day- in the morning time and before going to bed. The salt helps to pull the mucus out of your swollen glands, inflamed tissue and relieves the pain and discomfort.

  • Stay hydrated

Try to drink warm water as much as possible, this will keep your body hydrated and reduce the production of excess saliva and mucus by keeping the throat lubricated. You can also have warm soup and a cup of hot herbal tea to soothe your throat. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine as it can increase the dryness in the throat.

  • Rest

Let your body heal and don’t overwork it. Sleep and provide rest to your voice as much as possible

  • Have a warm bath

Taking a warm shower can reduce swelling and provide comfort to a sore throat. Steam is also effective, try to breathe in the stream with the help of a vaporiser or take a steam bath, try to take deep breathes for some minutes and repeat it for 15 minutes or so. To provide more relief you can add a menthol ointment to the water before taking the steam.


Que 1. When should I worry about a sore throat?
Ans- If you are expiring sleepless nights due to a sore throat accompanied by fever, blocked swollen tonsils or red rash, it is high time that you need to see the doctor.

Que 2. Is sore throat contagious?
Ans- Yes, a sore throat caused due to viruses is contagious as long as the symptoms are there. When the symptoms disappear the person is entirely safe to interact with.

Que 3. Should you stay at home with a sore throat?
Ans- If your voice is low/raspy and you are having difficulty in speaking it is ideal that you rest for a day or two and resume once you feel better.

Que 4. How do I know if my sore throat is viral or bacterial?
Ans- Sore throat can be caused by a virus like common-cold or by bacteria called streptococcus. To be surer about the infection you can consult with the doctor.

Que 5. What does a sore throat look like?
Ans- You might see red swollen patches or white dots at the back of your throat. The redness usually occurs at the tonsil area which swells up.

Que 6. Does alcohol help a sore throat?
Ans- There has been no specific evidence of the benefits of alcohol but alcohol does have an anaesthetic effect.

Que 7. What drinks help a sore throat?
Ans- Warm liquids can provide a lot of relief from sore throat. Try to drink warm water with honey, herbal tea or warm soups.

Que 8. How long a sore throat last?
Ans- A sore throat caused due to viral infection can last for 3 to 10 days while a sore throat due to bacterial infection may last longer.

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