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Sore Throat: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

14 Aug 2018

When your throat is scratchy and even talking hurts, you just want relief. Read on to learn more about why your throat hurts and what to do to feel better.

Diagnosing Causes of Sore Throats

Sore throats are caused by many different factors, but the most common cause is a viral infection, like a cold or the flu. Because antibiotics can’t effectively treat a viral infection, you will usually feel better on your own with home treatment after a few days—typically five to seven. Other illnesses can cause sore throats, including bacterial infections (such as the common strep throat), which do respond to antibiotics. 

Other conditions for which a sore throat may be a symptom include laryngitis and tonsillitis, inflammation of the larynx and the tonsils respectively. These causes are especially painful, as they often also restrict the airway. 

Because a sore throat has many possible causes, it’s important to see your doctor if your symptoms persist for more than 2 days, get worse or are especially painful. If this is the case, your doctor will likely perform a throat swab test. This test will detect whether or not the sore throat is caused bacterial infection—or, sometimes, neither. This is a differential diagnosis: The rapid swab test can only detect the presence of a bacterial infection. If the test comes back negative, it is most likely that the sore throat was in fact caused by a virus. 

Sore Throat Symptoms

Common symptoms of sore throats include:

  1. Throat pain, especially when talking or swallowing
  2. Swollen, painful glands in the neck
  3. Inflamed tonsils 

Depending on what is causing your sore throat, there may be additional symptoms, such as fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and other common cold and flu symptoms

Remedies for a Sore Throat

Soothing a Sore Throat

There are things you can do to soothe your sore throat, probably without having to leave your house. If your throat is in pain, try: 

  1. Gargling with salt water; try a solution of ½ tablespoon of salt to eight ounces of water
  2. Using a humidifier or vaporizer to keep your throat moist
  3. Placing a warm towel over your throat
  4. Eating ice cream, popsicles or ice chips—anything cool
  5. Eating or drinking warm foods and liquids, such as tea with honey, soups and broths
  6. Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and thin any concurrent mucus 

Mucinex® Products for Sore Throats

If at-home remedies don’t help, another line of treatment is over-the-counter medication. Mucinex® products within the Fast-Max®, Sinus-Max® and Children’s Mucinex® lines will help relieve sore throat pain and additional symptoms including cough, chest congestion and nasal congestion. 

For example, adults who wish to treat sore throats as a result of a cold or flu can try Maximum Strength Mucinex® Fast-Max® Clear & Cool, Cold, Flu & Sore Throat. This liquid medication provides a burst of menthol for instant cooling while the medicines provide cold symptom relief. Children with sore throats 6 years of age and older may be given Children’s Mucinex® Cold, Cough & Sore Throat Liquid. It includes Acetaminophen for sore throat relief. Always use OTC medications as directed. 

If a sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, an antibiotic may be indicated in order to fully relieve symptoms. If a sore throat persists for more than 2 days, consult a doctor promptly. When prescribed an antibiotic, it is important to follow your doctor’s dosage instructions and to finish your full course of treatment, even if the sore throat and other symptoms subside. 

When to See Your Doctor about Sore Throat

If the sore throat persists, see your doctor for the most accurate diagnosis and more advanced treatment options. 

Additionally, if certain symptoms are experienced concurrently with sore throat, a doctor should be seen to rule out a more serious condition: 

  1. Headache, nausea, or vomiting
  2. Severe, persistent pain in the throat that does not respond to treatment by home remedy or OTC medication for more than 2 days
  3. Blood in productive cough phlegm
  4. Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or opening the mouth to eat or speak
  5. Other sinus pain, especially ear pain
  6. Body aches and joint pains
  7. Rash of unknown origin anywhere on the body
  8. High fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  9. Voice change that persists (raspy, scratchy, etc.) 

Again, treatment will depend on the cause of the persistent sore throat and any other accompanying symptoms. The doctor may start with a rapid swab test before moving on to other symptom-specific testing.

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