Pharyngitis, the medical term for sore throat, is an infection with throat pain. It usually goes away by itself in a week without causing damage.
The cause is usually a virus, but air pollution, alcohol, allergies, bacteria, chemicals, and smoking can also cause a sore throat.
Throat discomfort is the most common symptom. Others, depending on the cause of the sore throat, may be earache, fever, large tonsils, neck pain, pain when talking or swallowing, red throat, runny nose, snoring and trouble breathing, drooling, general aches, and swollen, painful glands in the neck.
The health care provider will make a diagnosis from the medical history and examination, especially of the ears and throat. Usually, no other tests are needed. A swab of the throat may also be done if a streptococcal (strep) bacterial infection is suspected to be the cause. Blood tests may be done for other diseases, such as mononucleosis, if these are suspected.
Most cases go away by themselves. Antibiotics are not helpful for viral infections. The health care provider will prescribe antibiotics only for a suspected bacterial infection. Drinking warm liquids, eating soft cold food, and gargling with warm saltwater solution may help the pain. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be taken for fever and pain. A cool mist vaporizer may relieve a dry, tight feeling in the throat.
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