I can’t recall the number of times I have woken up from a good night’s sleep only to find that I’ve got a tickle in my throat. And more often than not, it’s the kind that starts off as a slight irritation or itch, next thing you know, it’s like you’ve got a cactus stuck in your throat that you’re cringing at even just the thought of swallowing. According to Dr. Keithley Perez, Chairman of the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Department at the MCU FDTMF Hospital in Caloocan, sore throats are commonly caused by viruses.
And no, it’s not just when you’ve screamed at the top of your lungs to the point of losing your voice. So unless you’re a superhero with immunization powers, there’s a good chance you’ve had one before.
Causes of sore throat
- Viral infections - As previously mentioned, viruses are the most common causes of sore throats. So yes, sore throats can definitely be contagious if not given the proper treatment and can possibly result to even strep throat. According to Dr. Perez, here are some of the most common viruses you can look out for: rhinovirus, adenovirus, and influenza.
- Bacterial infections - A minority of bacterial agents can also cause sore throats such as strep GABHS, haemophilus influenzae, and moraxella.
- Dryness - Dry air can suck the moisture out of your mouth and make your throat feel rough and scratchy. Which is why sometimes even when you’ve been taking good care of your health and wellness, you may have been sleeping with your mouth open.
Some of the more serious causes include:
- Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease ( LPRD )
- Inhaled air pollutants
- Post nasal drip
Symptoms of sore throat
If you’re not sure whether or not you’re suffering from a sore throat or just a minor irritation here are the symptoms you can look out for:
- Difficulty or pain swallowing
- Enlarged lymph nodes or tender neck
- Hoarse voice
Infections causing sore throat may also result in other symptoms including:
Cold or flu - “A sore throat can be a symptom of a cold or flu. Both colds and flu are viral infections of the upper respiratory tract and both may present the same signs and symptoms. Though a flu may give you high grade fever for several days, body malaise, fatigue and weakness. Complications for colds are usually minor but flu may present life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia,” says Dr. Perez.
Risk factors of sore throat
Although anyone can get a sore throat at any given time, there are some factors that make you more susceptible to getting one including:
- Exposure to irritants - This includes smoking, polluted air, and chemicals that are often found in household cleaning products.
- Frequent sinus infections - If you frequently get sinus infections, there’s a bigger chance that you’ll catch a sore throat especially because our ears, noses, and throats are all connected to each other.
- Age - Good news for adults! Grownups less likely to get a sore throat. But on the flip side, sore throats affect mostly children and teenagers since their immune system is more susceptible to viral infections.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - If you suffer from digestive system disorder, you’re more likely to get a sore throat because of the acid that rises from the stomach to the esophagus which can irritate and burn your throat.
- Allergies - The way the immune system reacts to allergies can cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watery eyes, and throat irritation. Chances are, if you’re surrounded by a dirty environment especially dust and are easily irritated by them, you are more likely to get a sore throat.
Home remedies of sore throat
Luckily, sore throats can easily be treated naturally and at the comfort of your own home. Here are some of Dr. Perez’ recommendations:
- Bed rest - Getting plenty of rest can help treat sore throat. Not only does sleep help you regain energy but it can also aid your body in fighting the infection that’s causing your sore throat.
- Drink lots of fluids - Drinking lots of fluids especially water is the key to overcoming a sore throat especially when caused by a viral infection.
- Warm water with honey - Any hot beverage can help you ease the pain of your sore throat but definitely avoid caffeine and alcohol as it can dehydrate you more. Adding honey to warm water is said to have healing properties that has been in rotation since the ancient times.
- Warm soup - Not only do you deserve a hot bowl of your favorite soup because you’re under the weather, but it actually also helps break up the congestion in your body.
- Gargle with salt water - Several studies have found that gargling warm salt water can greatly reduce the swelling in your throat, especially when done repeatedly as it flushes out the toxins and bad bacteria.
- Avoid irritants - Smoking or even just being exposed to smoke can worsen the effects of your sore throat. In order to recover quickly, try to also avoid chemical irritants that are typically found in household cleaning products.
- Over-the-counter lozenges - Lozenges can provide quick and temporary relief that can make you sore throats more bearable as it serves as a form of lubrication and eases the tightness.
- Use a humidifier - A humidifier can bring back the moisture in the air and can help soothe your sore throat. If you don’t have a humidifier on hand, a long hot steam shower can also do the trick.
When to see a doctor for sore throat
Of course, some or all of these natural remedies may not work for you so it’s important to be mindful of your body and what it’s trying to tell you. If you’re experiencing more discomfort and have not seen any improvements, it’s best to see a doctor. Be wary of the following:
- High grade fever (greater than 38 degrees celsius)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat that lasts for long periods of time more or less three to five days
- Swelling in the neck
Dr. Keithley Bryan A. Perez MD, FPSO-HNS, Chairman Dept. Of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery MCU FDTMF Hospital.