There’s nothing quite as exasperating as the gnawing, persistent pain of a sore throat. Throat inflammation has many trademark symptoms that creep up on you. These include scratchiness, irritation and pain, which may be telltale signs of either a bacterial or a viral infection.
Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause. These might include fever, hoarse voice, joint pain, body aches, headaches, neck / face swelling etc.
Having a sore throat? Read on to find out what you can do about it, and when you should consult a healthcare professional. You can also seek comfort in some proven home remedies!
The sooner your throat recovers, the sooner you’ll be able to return to your energetic self.
What is throat inflammation?
Throat inflammation, known medically as pharyngitis, refers to the inflammation of the pharynx. The pharynx is part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity, and above the oesophagus and voice box – the tubes going down to the stomach and the lungs. It is the swelling of this area that causes pain and difficulty swallowing.
Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by viral infections. Other less common causes include bacterial infections, allergies, dry air, smoke/chemicals, injury, tumour and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
For pharyngitis caused by a viral infections, doctors usually treat it by letting the virus run its course. The medications prescribed such as painkiller and anti-fever are to help relieve and reducethe pain and/or discomfort. The virus goes away on its own and antibiotics will not help.
While less common, pharyngitis can also be caused by bacterial infection and this will require antibiotics.
What are the symptoms of throat inflammation?
Depending on the underlying cause of your throat inflammation, you may encounter a mix of common and accompanying symptoms.
The common symptoms of throat inflammation include pain in the throat, pain when swallowing, and/or a feeling of scratchiness in the throat. The accompanying symptoms of throat inflammation include:
- Runny nose
- Joint pain or muscle aches
- Hoarse voice
- Swollen lymph nodes that are tender to touch
In addition to an inflamed throat, these accompanying symptoms may indicate a variety of possible underlying conditions.
|Possible underlying condition||Symptoms|
|Cold or flu|
Both are respiratory infections and have similar symptoms.
Incubation period: One to five days
– Inflamed throat
– Runny nose
– Body aches
This glandular fever is colloquially known as “the kissing disease”, as it can be spread by saliva!
Incubation Period: Four to six weeks
– Inflamed throat
– Swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
– Skin rash
– Swollen tonsils
This is a less common type of pharyngitis caused by bacteria. Strep throat accounts only for a small percentage of sore throats.
Incubation period: Two to five days
– Difficulty swallowing
– Throat pain
– Red and swollen tonsils with sometimes white patches or streaks of pus
– Foreign taste in the mouth
– Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
– Nausea or vomiting
|Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)|
GERD is a digestive order when contents from your stomach move up into your oesophagus, which affects people of all ages. It is also known as acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux.
|– Sore throat|
– Laryngitis (voice box inflammation)
– Heartburn – a burning feeling in your chest or throat
– Dry, persistent cough
– Chest pain
– Damaged teeth from stomach acid
– Bad breath
With that said, it’s important to note that these symptoms may apply to other conditions as well. In fact, the cause for your throat inflammation may be as simple as dehydration. If you work daily in air-conditioned environments, increasing your water intake could remedy your painful, parched throat.
But when in doubt, it’s best to seek the professional opinion of a doctor.
So, when should you see a doctor for throat inflammation?
In general, this depends on a number of factors, including your age.
You should see a doctor if your sore throat persists for more than a week. Be sure to consult a doctor if you have any of these accompanying symptoms:
- Pain that hasn’t subsided for more than a week
- High fever
- Skin rash
- Swelling of the area near the neck and beneath the ears
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
If you’re the caretaker of a child or an infant, observe them closely for one or more of these symptoms. Any of these symptoms will require the attention of a doctor.
- Has trouble swallowing
- Unwilling to drink or eat
- Voice sounds muffled
- Has a stiff neck and difficulty opening their mouth
- Breathing difficulty
- Increased drooling (infants and young children)
- Temperature higher than 38.4ºC
- Swelling of the area near the neck, and beneath the ears
Food for sore throat: what should you eat?
Sore throats can make eating and drinking a real pain. Fortunately, you can fall back on fluids and food that are easy to swallow. These options will prevent irritating your throat further, while giving your body what it needs.
Plenty of fluids
This is the easiest and cheapest way to help soothe your sore throat. Staying hydrated can help keep your throat moist. It can also help decrease the mucus secretions on your throat. If you have a fever, it will also help you replenish the fluids that you’ve lost, while keeping your temperature low.
Drinking cold water and sucking on ice can help alleviate pain, and reduce swelling and inflammation of your throat. More than just keeping you hydrated, cool temperatures can also help reduce congestion.
If you prefer a different kind of comfort, warm water and caffeine-free teas can also soothe your inflamed throat. Warm fluids can also reduce stuffiness, allowing for better drainage of mucus.
You should avoid fluids that dehydrate you. This means that alcohol and other heavily caffeinated drinks such as coffee and colas are a no-go.
Drinking warm broth can also help keep your mental and physical resilience at peak when you’re fighting an inflamed throat. Not only are they tasty, but broths also help you keep hydrated and soothe your throat.
Depending on your body, you may want to avoid cream-based soups and dairy, as they may heighten some symptoms like the thickness of your phlegm, which may lead you to clear your throat more and worsen your sore throat. Be sure to stick to broths that are lower in salt, as excessive sodium may dehydrate you.
Lozenges and hard candy
Keep your throat constantly moist by sucking on lozenges and hard candy. They help to stimulate saliva production, keeping your throat moist.
Some lozenges also contain menthol, which can help numb your throat and provide much-needed temporary relief.
However, lozenges and hard candy should not be given to children below five years of age, as they can pose a choking hazard.
If you’ve lost your appetite because you’re afraid to swallow, fret not. You can ease your discomfort just by reaching for some of the common ingredients in your kitchen. However, there are also some foods that you should avoid!
|Food for sore throat||Food to avoid for sore throat|
When it comes to food to eat for a sore throat, think of the soft, non-complicated foods.
– Scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
– Warm, cooked pasta
– Warm oatmeal
– Yoghurt, plain or with pureed fruits
– Mashed potatoes
– Fruit or vegetable smoothies
– Non-acidic juices
– Honey and water concoctions
– Ginger-infused food or water
When it comes to food to avoid for a sore throat, think of textures and flavours that can irritate your throat. This includes foods with gritty, crumbling textures, and acidic components.
– Crusty bread
– Dry snacks
– Raw vegetables
– Acidic fruits like grapefruit and lemons
– Spicy seasonings and sauces
– Dairy, if it increases your mucus production
What else can you do to recover from throat inflammation?
Apart from prescribed medication, there are also some other things that you can do to find relief at home.
Gargling with warm salt water
Doing this a few times a day can make you feel like you’re giving your throat a fresh start.
Simply mix half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, then gargle it. Salt pulls the fluids and mucus right out of the tissues in your throat area, temporarily relieving discomfort.
Use a humidifier or a vapouriser
For an additional comfort for your throat inflammation, you may also use a humidifier or a cool-mist vapouriser. They add moisture to the air, helping to minimise the irritation that dry air causes to your throat.
Get enough rest
And as with all forms of sickness, it’s important to rest. Proper rest can give your immune system the boost that it needs, and help your body conquer that inflamed throat faster.
No matter how busy you are, you should not take your well-being for granted.
Thankfully, getting professional healthcare doesn’t need to involve long waiting times. On MyDoc, you can see a doctor in 30 minutes. Plus, you can get your prescription straight from the app and pick up your medication from the nearest Guardian.