Sore Throat and Potential Reasons

Sore throats are common occurrences for adults and children alike.  A sore throat can inflict soreness from infection, pain from irritation, itchiness from allergies or a combination of all of these symptoms.  Those who have a sore throat may complain of difficulty swallowing food or liquids, especially if they are too hot or too cold.  Often, swallowing makes the soreness more pronounced and taking liquids, in general, may be difficult, especially for a young child.  Associated symptoms depend on what is causing the sore throat but can include fever, chills, dryness, swollen glands, and hoarseness. Occasionally, white patches on the tonsils or back of the throat may become present.  Children, smokers, allergy sufferers, and those with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to sore throats and their causes.

The most common causes of sore throats include viruses and bacteria, but even fungal infections and allergies can cause sore throats.  Some recognizable viruses and viral illnesses that commonly cause sore throats include mononucleosis, measles, the chickenpox virus, the virus that causes croup, and laryngitis.  The notorious strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, but another serious cause of a sore throat is diphtheria, which we don’t see much anymore, thanks to vaccines. Whooping cough is another bacterial infection that is associated with a sore throat, but as the name implies, a cough is the main symptom.

Other noninfectious causes of sore throats are common as well.  Allergies to mold, pet dander, pollen, or other irritants can trigger and cause itchiness, swelling and postnasal drip that easily translates into a sore throat.  Post nasal drip is when excess mucus drains from your sinuses and accumulates in the back of your throat. This accumulation then irritates your throat and cause inflammation and soreness.  Dry air and exposure to tobacco smoke can make throat feel scratchy and raw.  Screaming or talking loudly too much or for too long can cause throat strain and a sore throat.  A digestive condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may also cause a sore throat and even a dry, hacky cough.  GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus.

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