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Sore Throat : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

A sore throat is a pain, irritation, or dryness in the throat that can occur due to a viral or bacterial infection. When a sore throat, the pain experienced by the sufferer will be felt more when swallowing food or drinks.

Sore throats can be experienced by all ages, both children and adults. A sore throat due to viral infection is the most common and usually can recover by itself within one week. Conversely, a sore throat due to bacterial infection needs to be treated.

A sore throat can be a symptom of the following diseases:

  • Tonsillitis, which is an inflammation of the tonsils.
  • Pharyngitis, which is an inflammation of the channel that connects the nose or mouth with the esophagus or the duct where the vocal cords (larynx).
  • Laryngitis, which is an inflammation of the larynx.

In some cases, a sore throat can also be a sign of a more serious illness, such as:

  • Mononucleosis infection, which is an Epstein Barr virus infection characterized by enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and sore throat.
  • Peritonsillar abscess, ie suppurating swelling between the palate of the throat and the back of the tonsils.
  • Epiglottitis, which is an inflammation of the valve that separates the respiratory tract from the digestive tract.

Causes of Sore Throat

Complaints of sore throat can be caused due to a viral infection or bacterial infection. The most common cause is a virus.

Many viruses can cause sore throats. Among them are rhinovirus, coronavirus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus. The most common cause is the rhinovirus. This virus is very easy to spread from one person to another through air and sputum splashes. In addition, viral infections are more common in the rainy season.

Meanwhile, bacteria that often cause sore throat are group A beta-hemolytic bacteria Streptococcus. This bacterial infection needs to be handled seriously because it can cause interference with the heart or kidneys.

Besides viral and bacterial infections, there are a number of other things that can cause sore throats, including:

  • Allergic reactions in the form of inflammation of the respiratory tract, which occurs when the immune system reacts to allergens can cause sore throats.
  • Dry air. This condition can remove moisture in the mouth and throat, so that it feels dry or rough, which eventually triggers a sore throat.
  • Injuries to the throat can cause irritation and sore throat. For example, due to food stuck in the throat, blunt or sharp wounds to the neck, or screaming or talking loudly.
  • Gastric acid reflux (GERD). Apart from the esophagus, stomach acid can also rise up to the throat, and cause inflamed throat and pain.
  • Tumors in the throat, voice box, or tongue can cause a sore throat.
  • An abscess or pus that appears in the throat can cause a sore throat.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

The characteristics of a sore throat that can be felt are:

  • The throat feels burning, dry, or irritated
  • Pain worsens when swallowing or talking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The tonsils are swollen and red, or there are white spots.

In addition, sore throats can also be accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Cough
  • Colds or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Muscle ache
  • Tired or lethargic
  • Breath smells
  • Hoarseness
  • A lump appears around the neck or jaw
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • The appetite decreases.

Symptoms of a sore throat can usually subside within a few days, but medical treatment needs to be given immediately if the sufferer:

  • Feeling symptoms do not improve or even worse
  • Hard to breathe
  • Make a wheezing sound when breathing
  • There is a rash on the skin
  • Hoarseness more than two weeks
  • Earache

Sore Throat Diagnosis

To ensure a diagnosis, the doctor will conduct an interview and physical examination. Physical examination is done in the throat area, as well as other body parts such as the ear, heart, and stomach. In the examination, the doctor will find out that there is a possibility that a sore throat is caused by a group A beta-hemolytic bacteria Streptococcus infection.

One of the things commonly used by doctors to determine the possibility of a bacterial infection is the Center score. In the scoring, if there are swollen tonsils, enlarged lymph nodes in the front of the neck, fever with a body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, and the absence of cough, then the possibility that sore throat is caused by group A beta-hemolytic infection is very big.

If so, then the doctor will carry out a further examination in the form of a blood test and throat swab examination. On blood tests, white blood cell levels and erythrocyte sedimentation rates will be seen. At the throat swab examination, swabs will be carried out in the throat area and the results are examined under a microscope.

Treatment of Sore Throat     

In making a diagnosis, the general practitioner will explore the history of symptoms and perform a physical examination of the patient. The examination can be in the form of seeing the condition of the throat, nose, and ears with a device equipped with lights, feeling the neck area to find out a lump, or listening to the sound of breath with a stethoscope.

After a physical examination, the doctor can do a throat swab test by taking a sample of throat secretions. This examination is done to see the presence of Streptococcus bacteria as a cause of sore throat.

For patients suspected of having impaired body immunity or glandular fever (mononucleosis), the doctor can confirm it through a blood test.

Treatment of sore throats is based on the cause. For a sore throat due to a viral infection, no special treatment is needed and the symptoms will subside within 5-7 days. But to be able to relieve symptoms more quickly, the following efforts can be made at home:

  • Gargling with warm water mixed with salt
  • Rest
  • Drink a lot, but avoid hot drinks
  • Eating cold and soft foods
  • Avoid smoke
  • Ice cubes.

If these efforts have not been able to relieve symptoms, then paracetamol can be given. In addition to painkillers, spray medicines containing antiseptics, such as phenol or which have conditioning ingredients (menthol and eucalyptus), can be used to relieve the throat.

If a person has a sore throat due to a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to relieve symptoms. This medication needs to be consumed until it is used up to prevent the infection from worsening or spreading to other parts of the body. In addition, if antibiotics are not consumed until they run out, children who have strep throat are at risk of experiencing complications such as rheumatic fever or kidney infection (pyelonephritis).

As for sore throats caused by GERD, doctors can prescribe antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors.

Prevention of Sore Throat

The main way to prevent sore throat is to apply a clean lifestyle to ward off the transmission of bacteria or viruses. Efforts that can be made include:

  • Wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the toilet, coughing, sneezing, or before eating
  • Use a tissue when sneezing or coughing so you can throw it away immediately
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Do not share eating or drinking equipment with other people
  • Clean equipment at home, such as telephone receiver, TV remote, or computer keyboard regularly.



  1. NHS Choices UK (2018). Health A-Z. Sore Throat
  2. Spinks, et al. (2013). Antibiotics for Sore Throat. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
  3. Watson, S. Healthline (2017). Sore Throat 101: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.