Even the nicest food wouldn’t look delicious when you have a sore throat – a common term used to describe the sensation at the back of the throat as being painful, scratchy, burning or irritated.
This sensation worsens when swallowing or talking, which is why the thought of enduring the pain is often enough to make you lose your appetite, or refuse to talk.
What causes a sore throat?
Sore throat is not an illness on its own, but a symptom of pharyngitis (swelling at the back of the throat) which is caused by various reasons, including the following.
- Viral infection (e.g. influenza, common cold, measles, chicken pox)
- Bacterial infection (e.g. Streptococcal pharyngitis)
- Allergies due to pet dander, mould or dust
- Dryness of the throat due to the lack of water intake or staying in a dry, indoor environment for a long period of time
- Irritants such as tobacco smoke, spicy food or alcohol
- Muscle strain from persistent shouting or talking for long periods of time
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Treating sore throats
A sore throat caused by a viral infection generally does not require any treatment as the symptoms will resolve within 5 to 7 days. If you wish to relieve the pain and irritation, you can consider taking lozenges or using a throat gargle.
Over-the-counter lozenges containing antibacterial or soothing agents may be used to relieve a mild sore throat. For stronger lozenges containing antibacterial agents with anaesthetic, consult a pharmacist.
Throat gargles or sprays
Over-the-counter or pharmacy-only throat gargles containing antibacterial agents are often recommended for the relief of sore throats. Throat sprays containing anti-inflammatory agents may also be used to relieve the pain.
When consulting a pharmacist, do inform him/her of your existing health condition or any medications you are currently taking.
Self-treatment at home
You may wish to go DIY when it comes to treating a sore throat. Here’s how you can do it.
- Get sufficient rest and avoid straining your throat
- Keep your throat moist and your body hydrated by drinking sufficient water
- Take warm liquids (e.g. honey lemon water) or cold ice pops to provide relief
When to consult a doctor
A sore throat may not be as innocent as it feels. If any of the following occurs, you should see a doctor immediately.
- Your sore throat has persisted for more than a week
- You have very frequent, recurring sore throats
- The hoarseness of your voice has persisted for more than 2 weeks
- You have difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Your sore throat is accompanied by earache, joint pain or rash
- You have a fever of more than 38.3°C
- There is blood in the saliva or phlegm
- You discover a lump in your neck
- You have a weak immune system due to an illness or the use of long-term immune suppressant medications