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Healthcare 101: Reasons Your Sore Throat Might Not Be The Flu


Each flu season, approximately 5-20 percent of the population comes down with this viral infection, and it puts about 200,000 of them in the hospital each year. When you or someone you love has a sore throat, it is easy to assume it’s the flu, but is that always the answer?

A sore throat is actually a common symptom of many conditions that CareSpot treats. There are annually 13 million doctor visits for a sore throat; many of which could be treated with simple home remedies. Don’t jump to conclusions and assume your child’s sore throat is the flu without first reviewing the following possibilities.


Viral Infections Can Cause Sore Throats

The flu is just one of the possible viral infections that can cause a sore throat. A much more prevalent viral infection that presents patients with a scratchy or sore throat is a cold. A cold is an infection of the rhinovirus, but it presents with many of the same symptoms as influenza, which is why people sometimes get the two confused.

Other possible viral infections include:

  • Mononucleosis
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Croup

Don’t Rule Out Bacterial Infections

Viruses are not the only kind of infection that can cause discomfort in the throat. Bacterial infections are less common than viral conditions, but they often cause sore throat and many other unpleasant symptoms. The most frequent bacterial infection is streptococcus or strep throat, which is contagious and potentially serious.

Tonsillitis is another serious case caused by an infection of two masses at the back of the throat. When infection takes hold of the tonsils, searing pain typically floods the entire throat. In severe, reoccurring cases, patients will have their tonsils removed. Bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics, as opposed to a virus, which requires antivirals or other over-the-counter medications. Never treat a viral infection, such as the flu, with antibiotics as this can decrease their effectiveness over time.

Commonplace Triggers of a Sore Throat

Many people worry that a sore throat is the symptom of a more serious problem, but it’s often simply an environmental or lifestyle issue. If you’re not experiencing fever, chills, or sinus congestion, your sore throat might be the result of one of the following less-severe possibilities:

  • Allergic reactions – Allergies to things like pet dander or molds can irritate the back of the throat.
  • Dry air – If your throat feels rough and scratchy, it may be the cold winter air outside or the dry heat inside. Many people get a sore throat in the winter due to the lack of moisture.
  • Throat irritants – These could include things like cigarette smoke and air pollution.
  • Digestive issues – With conditions like heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach acids and food move up the esophagus, causing irritations and burns.

Sore Throat Remedies

Once you have pinpointed the cause of a sore throat, it is much easier to treat it. For mild sore throats, there are several at-home remedies you can try before visiting a doctor.

  • Gargling warm salt water
  • Using a humidifier
  • Sucking on analgesic lozenges
  • Drinking tea with honey or broth
  • Drinking extra water
  • Sitting in a shower
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Herbal treatments

For both children and adults, the most important thing with a sore throat is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to help your body heal. But, if home remedies aren’t doing the trick and symptoms progress, visit your nearest CareSpot Urgent Care center today.