Sore Throats and Their Treatments

Jan 05, 2024

Sore ThroatA sore throat is one of the most common health conditions. In most cases, it is easily treatable with over-the-counter medications and home remedies such as salt water gargles, etc. However, that does not mean that the issue cannot evolve into a more serious condition. Hence, understanding what a sore throat is and when you should consult a doctor about it is important.

Acute Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is the medical term for a sore throat. It refers to an inflammation of the pharynx (the throat) that is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It is often a symptom rather than an ailment of its own. It often occurs when a patient is suffering from flu or common cold. The condition can also be the result of allergies such as hay fever. Breathing excessively dry air or chronic mouth breathing can also result in acute pharyngitis. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which causes the stomach acid to move to the throat is another common cause. A painful throat caused by excessive voice use or speaking at a loud volume can cause pain similar to pharyngitis but in this case, resting the voice is the best treatment.

If the condition does not improve in a week, if white patches (or pus) are noticed at the back of the throat, or if the lymph nodes on the neck are swollen, a doctor should be consulted so that more focused and effective treatment can be given.

Also Read: Middle Ear Infection And Treatment

Chronic Pharyngitis

When pharyngitis does not fade away within a week or so, or if the problem recurs frequently, the condition is known as chronic pharyngitis. Chronic pharyngitis does not respond to home treatment and requires diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional so that the underlying problem that causes it can be addressed. Although not as common as acute pharyngitis, the chronic condition affects millions of people all over the world each year and if it is not treated can lead to various severe medical conditions that could have lasting consequences on a patient’s long-term health.

Symptoms of Chronic Pharyngitis

The symptoms of both acute and chronic pharyngitis are similar, the difference being that the chronic condition does not respond to home or over-the-counter treatment. The common signs include:

  • Pain in the throat
  • Severe itchiness or a ticking sensation in the throat
  • A hoarse voice
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • A feeling that something is stuck in the throat when it is in fact clear
  • Being able to speak only in whispers

If there is also an infection, then additional symptoms may appear. These include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Fever


The causes of both acute and chronic pharyngitis are the same:

  • Persistent tonsillitis – a condition where the tonsils are infected and/or inflamed
  • Allergic reactions
  • Environmental pollution
  • Acid reflux

In very rare cases, it is possible that a sore throat may be a symptom of throat cancer. In these cases, besides the other symptoms, there is often shortness of breath, development of lumps in the neck and there may be bleeding from the mouth or nose.

Also Read: Vertigo - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


The process of diagnosing chronic pharyngitis is straightforward in most cases. It is only if the patient has other health issues that could affect the basic test results that more complex diagnostic procedures are called for. The process begins with a physical examination that will focus on the throat but may also include other areas where there may be symptoms of other conditions that are affecting the throat. This is often followed by a throat culture, or if a staphylococcus or other infection is suspected, a rapid antigen test.


The treatment is based on the underlying cause of the condition.

  • Tonsillitis: This is generally treated with a course of antibiotics. If the problem recurs frequently, a tonsillectomy, which is a routine medical procedure, may be advised.
  • Allergies: If chronic pharyngitis is caused by an allergic reaction, then a series of tests may be ordered to try and find the cause of the allergy so that it may be treated and the condition resolved. In many cases, nasal sprays and over-the-counter medications are effective in treating chronic pharyngitis caused by allergies.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to smoke (including secondhand cigarette smoke), chemical fumes, dust, and toxic materials can all cause chronic pharyngitis. Treatment involves identifying, if possible, the trigger and avoiding it in the future. If no specific trigger can be identified, the patient is asked to avoid, as far as possible, situations that expose him or her to possible environmental pollution.
  • Acid Reflux: If gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the cause, the patient may be asked to make lifestyle changes that will prevent the reflux occurrence. These include altering the diet, weight reduction, reducing stress, increasing exercise, and so on. Medication to control the reflux may also be prescribed.
  • In the very rare case that chronic pharyngitis is caused by throat cancer, the treatment will typically include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery.

If chronic pharyngitis is the result of a viral infection, the patient is infectious as long as the symptoms are present. For this reason, it is important that those with the condition isolate themselves and those who are not suffering from it avoid those who are infected.

A sore throat is not a cause for concern, but it should not be ignored. If home treatment does not cause the condition to significantly improve within a week or ten days, it is advisable to consult a doctor. The best place to go for diagnosis and treatment is a multispecialty hospital where there is a dedicated ear, nose and throat (ENT) department. This is where you will find qualified specialists and advanced diagnostic and treatment facilities to provide the best recovery. A multispecialty hospital will also have other specialized departments that can be quickly consulted if other medical factors are causing or contributing to chronic pharyngitis.

A sore throat is not a cause for concern, but a sore throat that is ignored could become one.

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