What is a sore throat?

Sore throat, also called pharyngitis occurs due to an inflammation of the pharynx (the back of the throat). It is quite common to experience irritation or itchiness in the throat and some difficulty in swallowing food and liquids.

Sore throat is one of the most common reasons Australians visit their GPs. When it is caused by a viral infection such as a cold or the flu, with plenty of rest, nutritious diet and some over-the-counter medication, the body can fight it off within a week. However, if the cause of a sore throat is a bacterial infection, it is often referred to as strep throat and may need to be treated with antibiotics after visiting your doctor.

While sore throats can affect anyone, children aged 5 – 15 years are most at risk of frequent sore throats, as are people with allergies or large tonsils, and those who have continuous exposure to chemical irritants.

What are the causes of sore throat?

Sore throat can be caused by a range of reasons from viral infection to air quality and allergies.

Viral infection

A viral infection due to one of the following illnesses could cause a sore throat:

  • Common cold
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Mononucleosis – an infection transmitted through saliva
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
Bacterial infection

Sore throat caused by the bacteria Strepococcus Pyogenes is known as a strep throat. The throat and tonsils are infected and you would need to consult your doctor for treatment options.

Seasonal infection

Often with the changing weather conditions, the throat experiences irritation. During the winter months, the air is dry with the heater running. The dry air sucks the moisture from the mouth and throat, leaving them feeling itchy. Likewise, constant air conditioning during the summer months also tends to make the air dry.

Allergies

When the body’s immune system is sensitive to environmental allergens such as pollen, grass, air borne mould spores, and pet dander, the body reacts with symptoms such as watery eyes, throat irritation and runny nose. This condition is commonly referred to as hay fever.

Other irritants

Chemicals and substances in the environment such as smoke from vehicles and industrial sources, or chemicals from cleaning products, could also cause throat irritation.

What are the causes of sore throat?

Sore throat can be caused by a range of reasons from viral infection to air quality and allergies.

Viral infection

A viral infection due to one of the following illnesses could cause a sore throat:

  • Common cold
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Mononucleosis – an infection transmitted through saliva
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox

Seasonal infection

Often with the changing weather conditions, the throat experiences irritation. During the winter months, the air is dry with the heater running. The dry air sucks the moisture from the mouth and throat, leaving them feeling itchy. Likewise, constant air conditioning during the summer months also tends to make the air dry.

Allergies

When the body’s immune system is sensitive to environmental allergens such as pollen, grass, air borne mould spores, and pet dander, the body reacts with symptoms such as watery eyes, throat irritation and runny nose. This condition is commonly referred to as hay fever.

Bacterial infection

Sore throat caused by the bacteria Strepococcus Pyogenes is known as a strep throat. The throat and tonsils are infected and you would need to consult your doctor for treatment options.

Other irritants

Chemicals and substances in the environment such as smoke from vehicles and industrial sources, or chemicals from cleaning products, could also cause throat irritation.

Symptoms of a sore throat

Here are a few common signs and symptoms of a sore throat that may vary depending on the exact cause:

  • Throat pain that aggravates when swallowing or talking
  • Itchy throat
  • Sniffles and sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarse voice
  • Tiredness

If you are suffering from strep throat, the symptoms may also include:

  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach ache

What to look out for in children

Consult your doctor immediately if you are unsure about any of the above symptoms or observe your child suffering from the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Stiff or swollen neck
  • High fever
  • Earache
  • Tender or enlarged neck glands

How to get rid of a sore throat?

Sore throat caused by a viral infection or other irritants can be treated with relief medication to ease the symptoms. Speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist about effective over-the-counter relief medication, such as lozenges or throat gargles with anti-bacterial and anti-viral actions. It takes between 5-7 days for a sore throat to clear .

If you are observing signs of a strep throat, then you must visit your doctor for a complete diagnosis and antibiotic prescription medication.

Best treatments for children experiencing a sore throat

Children may need additional attention and care when suffering from a sore throat as they may get easily frustrated with a scratchy throat and having difficulty in swallowing foods and liquids. Help ease their symptoms by trying the following:

  • Gargling with warm, salty water (only for children 7 years and over)
  • Warm or iced drinks and ice blocks may soothe an irritated throat
  • Offer soft foods such as yoghurt and soups
  • Staying hydrated with water
  • Plenty of rest in a room that has a comfortable temperature

When to see a doctor

If your sore throat doesn’t show signs of improvement after five days or you are showing any of the following symptoms earlier, then we recommend seeking medical attention immediately:

  • Joint aches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Stiff neck
  • Drooling
  • Rash or bruises
  • Passing less urine than usual
  • Dryness in mouth
  • Earache
  • Tender or enlarged neck glands
  • High fever

It is recommended you consult a doctor if there are no signs of symptoms easing after two days in children or earlier if the symptoms are getting worse.

Tips to prevent a sore throat all year round

Here are a few simple tips to maintain hygiene and help prevent catching a viral or bacterial infection that could result in a sore throat:

  • Washing hands regularly
  • Using hand sanitisers when washing hands immediately is not possible, such as on public transport
  • As the weather changes, drinking warm water with honey or lemon water
  • Getting yourself vaccinated as the flu season rolls by

If you are beginning to experience some symptoms of a sore throat speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist for advice on treatment options. Discussing your lifestyle and profession will help the pharmacist prescribe the most suitable relief medication. We are the leading brand of pharmacist-led vaccinations and our Masterclass trained pharmacists are experts in care. Talk to us about booking your flu vaccination today.