Sore Throat: Causes & Symptoms

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Sore throats are the most common physical ailment experienced by thousands of people every day. Constantly influenced by pollutants, bacteria, and viruses present in contaminated air, the throat is often vulnerable to this annoying ailment. With the steady increase in pollution levels every day, it has become a very common ailment.

Sore throats are indicated by an irritating and burning sensation in the throat, causing difficulty and pain in swallowing. This unavoidable (irritating) pain during swallowing and talking cause inconvenient interruptions to many daily activities. Most cases of a sore throat occur during the colder months.

Causes of Sore Throat

A sore throat is caused by a foreign virus or bacteria that induces an infection on the pharynx, which is the tube behind the throat between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx). This results in the inflammation of the pharynx, leading to the irritation that signifies this condition.

Viral Infections

Viral infections like colds and the flu are common causes of sore throats. Some distinct viruses, such as coxsackie infection or mononucleosis, also cause a sore throat.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections may also cause sore throats. Bacteria such as Streptococcus and Arcanobacterium heamolyticum are generally responsible.

Infected Tonsils, Adenoids, and Epiglottis

Sometimes bacterial infections lead to inflammation of the tonsils, adenoids, and epiglottis, which can also be responsible for sore throats.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause sore throats. Belches from the stomach can also push stomach acids to reach the esophagus and damage the inner lining of the throat, thereby causing sore throats.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In some cases, sexually transmitted diseases can also cause sore throats. Diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and others can be responsible.



Irritants such as smoking, pollution, low humidity, and in some cases food allergies, can also irritate the throat, thereby causing sore throats.

Therapeutic Complications

In some cases, one of the side effects of therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy could be the development of a sore throat.

Viruses can even produce blisters in the throat and mouth. However, more commonly, throat irritation is caused due to smoking, dry heat, post nasal drip or an allergic reaction. Less often, sore throats are due to bacterial infections. Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis include Corynebacterium, gonorrhea, or chlamydia.

Symptoms of Sore Throats                                 

The main indicator of a sore throat is, quite obviously, a sore throat.

Other symptoms of sore throats include:

Fever and Headache

If a sore throat is a result of an existing cold, fever and headaches are some of the symptoms that accompany the condition.

Joint Pain

Joint pain and muscle aches are some of the weaknesses that are caused by pharyngitis.

Skin Rashes

A skin rash that appears in conjunction with a strep throat problem is a symptom of Scarlet Fever.

Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Neck

Irritations prevalent in the throat can cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck. This is commonly known as lymphadenopathy.

Complications may include ear infections, mastoiditis, sinusitis, peritonsillar, and abscesses.

Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

  • Strep throat is one of the many possible causes of a sore throat or an infection in the throat.
  • Most common in children between 5 years and 15 years of age, strep throat is caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria.
  • Strep throat causes inflammation of the tonsils, larynx, and pharynx, whereas sore throats affect only the pharynx.
  • Strep throat symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and swelling of the throat and tonsils. White or yellow patches on the tonsils are also present.
  • Strep throat may lead to rheumatic or scarlet fever and thus, requires immediate medical attention.

Antibiotics are effective in reducing complications and speeding the recovery only in the case of strep throat. It doesn’t help in the recovery of ordinary sore throats. Protection Status
About the Author

Vanya Sharma handles the medical expert collaboration for Organic Facts. She is also responsible for the website’s monthly newsletter and website content and contributes to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube regularly. A writer at heart, she joined the website while she was still pursuing her English Literature degree from IGNOU, Delhi, India. Vanya has completed the “Introduction to Food and Health” certificate program from Stanford University, US. She aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.

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