What is a Sore Throat?
A sore throat is usually due to an infection in the throat area. Sore throat causes are mostly related to cases of pharyngitis or tonsillitis. Aside from pain in the throat area, the sore throat symptoms can also include a reddish appearance or swelling in the throat, ear pain, difficulty swallowing, and a high fever.
As they are often around infections in school and child care, children are more susceptible to contagious illnesses including sore throats versus adolescents and adults. They occur all year long, but particularly during the winter months when colds and flu are more frequent.
Diagnosing a Sore Throat
Sore throat is very common and is almost always self-diagnosed. In cases where a sore throat persists longer than the normal seven day period, or is accompanied by vomiting or fever, you should consult your health practitioner immediately as further diagnosis may be necessary.
What are Sore Throat Causes?
Sore throats may be associated with many medical conditions. Infections of the throat may be either viral or bacterial and are usually very contagious. Approximately 90 to 95% of all sore throats are caused by viruses such as the flu virus, a cold, or infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever).
Other sore throat causes, about 5-10%, are contributed to bacteria such as streptococcus, mycoplasma, or hemophilus. Bacterial sore throats are usually more serious than viral throat infections.
A common cause of bacterial throat infection is a particular strain of streptococcus bacteria of the group "A Streptococcus", and is commonly called strep throat. This specific bacterium can also cause damage to the kidneys and heart valves as well as causing tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear infections, pneumonia, or scarlet fever.
Is a Sore Throat Contagious?
Viruses causing sore throats can be spread through airborne droplets as well as through hand-to-hand and direct contact. However, sore throats can also be a symptom of other viral infections such as chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, or croup. Fever blisters or canker sores may also develop in the throat causing extreme pain. Mononucleosis (also known as the kissing disease or glandular fever) is a common throat infection as a result of the Epstein–Barr virus lodged in the lymph system. This virus causes a severe sore throat, enlarged tonsils with white patches, and swollen glands in the neck and armpits, sometimes with accompanying jaundice.
A sore throat may also be brought about as a result of environmental and other conditions. Smoking and breathing secondhand smoke, consuming large amounts of alcohol, breathing chemical fumes or polluted air are all factors that may cause a sore throat.
Help for a Sore Throat
The best sore throat remedies including drinking plenty of fluids such as tea with honey and gargling daily with warm salt water. Over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or antiseptic gargles will also provide pain and relief from sore throat symptoms, but may cause unwanted side effects.
More severe throat infections may require prescription medication such as antibiotics to suppress the infection. As antibiotics can not only cause unwanted side effects and other complications, but also rob the body of ‘good’ bacteria. It is important to determine whether they are really necessary, and if you do decide to take them, to replenish the good bacteria by eating live culture yogurt.
Natural Sore Throat Remedies
There are many effective natural alternatives to over-the-counter and prescription medicine that can relieve sore throat symptoms as well as treat the cause. Herbal and homeopathic sore throat remedies are safe, effective and gentle, without the harmful side effects or risk of addiction which accompany prescription and OTC medication. Natural remedies can treat the symptoms of sore throat while also helping to strengthen the immune system and beat the infection.
Examples of homeopathic remedies used to treat sore throats include Gelsemium 6C, which relieves a sore throat and influenza, and also provides a soothing effect. Salvia officinalis is a powerful herb with antibiotic and antiseptic properties that benefits all conditions of the mouth and throat. Other herbs such as Garlic help to fight bacterial infection and promote a strong immune system while Agrimony and Thyme can be taken for their astringent properties on the mucus membranes. Remember to always ensure your natural remedies are sourced from reputable companies for maximum safety, therapeutic dosage and effectiveness.
More Information on Sore Throats
Tips for Sore Throat Prevention
- Drink herbal teas, vegetable and fruit juices and large amounts of water to re-hydrate the mucus membranes in the throat and keep it moist
- Increase your intake of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids to boost your immune system
- Inhale aromatherapy oils such as eucalyptus, geranium, thyme and sandalwood
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently
- Do not share eating and drinking utensils with others
- Avoid close contact with someone who has a sore throat
- Avoid heavy polluted and smoke-filled areas