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Healthcare 101: Just a Sore Throat, or Something More?

Sore throats are commonplace, especially this time of year. Often, the pain, itching and irritation associated with a sore throat is nothing more than an indication that a cold is coming on. But how do you know if your sore throat is more serious than a cold? Read on for the full breakdown of sore throats and what they indicate.

Viral Infection Vs. Bacterial Infection

Your sore throat can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, and are accompanied by a cold. Bacterial causes of a sore throat include strep throat and acute tonsillitis, and mean that you need to see a medical professional in order to heal.

When to Rest at Home

Most sore throats are a result of a viral infection. In fact, viruses are the cause of 90 percent of sore throat infections. A sore throat that’s a result of a viral infection (a cold) typically presents itself with the following signs and symptoms:

  • A scratchy feeling in the throat
  • Pain or tenderness that gets worse as you speak or swallow
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • A hoarse or husky sounding voice
  • Swollen glands in the jaw or the neck

Do these symptoms describe how you or a loved one are feeling? If yes, over-the-counter pain relievers, cough drops and home remedies, including hot tea with honey, can help to ease the pain. Remember to stay hydrated and get a lot of rest. With a little time and tender loving care on your part, your viral infection should heal and the pain in your throat should subside. If you are still feeling crummy after a week, check in with with a medical professional to see if you might be dealing with something else. Viral infections tend to heal in five to seven days.

In addition, dry indoor air, irritants (such as spicy foods, alcohol), tobacco smoke, or other indoor or outdoor air pollution can result in a sore throat. In most cases, your sore throat will disappear by itself once these irritants are removed from your environment.

When to Visit a Medical Professional

Bacterial infections are a less common cause (10 percent or less) of a sore throat, but require medical attention. A sore throat could be the result of any number of illnesses besides a cold, including the flu, measles, mono, chickenpox, croup, strep throat and acute tonsillitis.

The following signs and symptoms, along with a sore throat, could indicate a bacterial infection, and that medical intervention is necessary:

  • A fever
  • Chills
  • A deep cough
  • Body aches and pains
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Feelings of nausea and vomiting

Simple R&R will not heal your throat if a bacterial infection is involved. A medical professional can prescribe you an antibiotic to kill the infection. The medication will likely take up to 10 days to rid your body of the infection, and you must take the complete course of antibiotics. If you do not, the infection could occur again. While taking the antibiotics, continue to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

If you are experiencing sore throat symptoms that have been going on for more than seven days, or are more than a simple cold, stop by CareSpot for evaluation and treatment. Tackle this illness head on and get back to feeling like yourself.