Sore throat symptoms and causes

Sore throat symptoms and causes

The sore throat is irritation, scratchiness or pain of the throat which worsens when you swallow. A viral infection, such as flu or cold is the most common cause for sore throat (pharyngitis). The sore throat that is caused by a virus resolves on its own. The less common type of sore throat is strep throat (streptococcal infection) which is caused by bacteria and this type of sore throat requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications [1]. Those causes which are less common causes of sore throat may need more complex treatment. Children and teens are having most chances to develop sore throat. Also smoking and secondhand smoke can irritate your throat. Ongoing allergies to pet dander, dust or molds or seasonal allergies can increase the chances of developing sore throat in very quick way.

Sore throat symptoms and causes

Symptoms: The symptoms of sore throat can vary which depend on the cause for this condition [2]. Here are signs and symptoms of sore throat:

  • Hoarse or muffled voice
  • White patches or pus on your tonsils
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • Sore, swollen glands in your neck or jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain that worsens with swallowing or talking
  • Pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat

The common infections which are causing sore throat can result in other signs and symptoms, such as

Causes: The most common causes for sore throat are viruses which are causing common cold and flu (influenza). There are less common cases when sore throat is caused by bacterial infections.

  1. Viral infections: Here are viral illnesses that are causing a sore throat [3]:
  • This is a common childhood problem which is characterized by a harsh and barking cough.
  • Chickenpox
  • Measles
  • Mononucleosis (mono)
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Common cold

Sore throat symptoms and causes

Sore throat symptoms and causes

  1. Bacterial infections: There are many different bacterial infections which can cause a sore throat. The most common bacterial infection which causes a sore throat is the Streptococcus pyogenes or group A streptococcus.
  2. Other causes: Here are other causes for sore throat:
  • Tumors: It is known that the cancerous tumors of the voice box (larynx), tongue or throat can lead to sore throat [4]. Other signs and symptoms can include blood in saliva or phlegm, a lump in the neck, noisy breathing, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness.
  • Irritants: It is known that indoor pollution (chemicals or tobacco smoke) can cause a chronic sore throat. The outdoor air pollution can lead to ongoing throat irritation. Eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol and chewing tobacco can irritate your throat.
  • HIV infection: After someone is infected with HIV, then a sore throat and other flu – like symptoms can appear. It is known that people who are HIV – positive can have a chronic or recurring sore throat that is caused by secondary infection, such as fungal infection called oral thrush and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection which is a common viral infection that can be a serious problem in people who have a compromised immune system. The CMV and oral thrush can happen in every single person but they are more likely to cause a sore throat and other symptoms in people who have weakened immune system.
  • GERD: This is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids or other contents of the stomach back up in esophagus (food pipe). Also there can be other signs or symptoms, such as the sensation of a lump in the throat, regurgitation of stomach contents, hoarseness and heartburn. [5]
  • Dryness: It is known that the dry indoor air, particularly when buildings are heated can make your throat to feel scratchy and rough and this is happening most often in mornings when you wake up. When you are breathing through your mouth, often because of chronic nasal congestion, this could lead to dry and sore throat.
  • Muscle strain: It is known that you can strain muscles in your throat by yelling such as at a sporting event, talking for long periods without rest and talking loudly.
  • Allergies: It is known fact that allergies to pollen, dust, molds and pet dander can lead to sore throat. Also this problem can be complicated by postnasal drip which inflame and irritate your throat.


[1] Barnett ML. Antibiotic prescribing to adults with sore throat in the United States, 1997-2010. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013. Retrieved from

[2] Rughani S. Case-based learning: sore throat. The Pharmaceutical Journal [Online]. 2019.

[3] Wakabayashi H, Oda H, Yamauchi K, Abe F. Lactoferrin for prevention of common viral infections. Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy. 2014;20(11):666-71.

[4] Shephard EA, Parkinson MAL, Hamilton WT. Recognising laryngeal cancer in primary care: a large case–control study using electronic records. British Journal of General Practice. 2019.

[5] Vaezi M. ENT symptoms of GERD. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2006;2(1):11-12.


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