A sore throat is a common problem that can affect anyone, especially during the cold and flu season. It can make you feel uncomfortable, irritated, and stressed out. But what exactly is a sore throat, and what causes it? How can you treat it, and when should you see a telehealth doctor? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, so you can learn how to take care of your sore throat and get better soon. If you want a personalised consultation to discuss your unique sore throat symptoms, you can book an online appointment with our team, available 24/7.
What are the different types of sore throats?
A sore throat is a general term that describes any pain, scratchiness, or inflammation in the throat. There are different types of sore throats, depending on which part of the throat is affected and what is causing the problem. Some of the most common types of sore throats are:
• Pharyngitis: This is the inflammation of the pharynx, which is the back part of the throat that connects the mouth and the nose. Pharyngitis is usually caused by viral infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19. It can also be caused by bacterial infections, such as strep throat, or by allergies, irritants, or dry air. Pharyngitis can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, headache, and swollen glands in the neck.
• Tonsillitis: This is the inflammation of the tonsils, which are the two small masses of tissue at the back of the throat that help fight infections. Tonsillitis is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections, such as strep throat, mono, or adenovirus. It can also be caused by allergies or irritants. Tonsillitis can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, swollen glands in the neck, and red or white patches on the tonsils.
• Laryngitis: This is the inflammation of the larynx, which is the voice box that contains the vocal cords. Laryngitis is usually caused by viral infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19. It can also be caused by overuse or misuse of the voice, such as shouting, singing, or smoking. Laryngitis can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, hoarseness, loss of voice, cough, and difficulty breathing.
How to treat throat pain?
The treatment of a sore throat depends on the type and cause of the problem. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek medical help from a trained professional like our team at Phenix Health. However, some general tips can help you relieve the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, such as:
• Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, tea, soup, or juice, to keep your throat moist and prevent dehydration.
• Gargle with warm salt water, which can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the throat. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for a few seconds, then spit it out. Repeat several times a day as needed.
• Suck on lozenges, hard candies, ice chips, or frozen fruit, which can help soothe the throat and stimulate saliva production. Avoid lozenges or candies that contain menthol, eucalyptus, or peppermint, as they can dry out the throat and make it worse.
• Use a humidifier or a vaporizer, which can add moisture to the air and ease the dryness and irritation in the throat. You can also inhale steam from a hot shower, a bowl of hot water, or a pot of boiling water, with or without adding some drops of essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus. Be careful not to burn yourself with the steam or the water.
• Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, which can irritate the throat and worsen the symptoms. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the throat and make it more sensitive.
• Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin, which can help reduce the pain and inflammation in the throat. However, do not give aspirin to children or teenagers, as it can cause a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome. Also, do not take more than the recommended dose or for longer than the advised period, as it can cause side effects or complications.
• Rest your voice and your body, which can help your throat heal faster and prevent further damage. Avoid talking, shouting, singing, or whispering, as this can strain your vocal cords and make your throat feel worse. Also, get enough sleep and avoid strenuous activities, as they can weaken your immune system and prolong your recovery.
Can COVID-19 start with a sore throat?
As you probably know, COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus caused by a novel coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, that can affect different parts of the body. One of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 is a sore throat, which can occur alone or along with other symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, headache, fatigue, muscle or body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
However, a sore throat is not a specific or definitive sign of COVID-19, as it can also be caused by many other conditions, such as the common cold, the flu, allergies, or irritants. Therefore, if you have a sore throat, you should not assume that you have COVID-19, but you should also not ignore it. Especially if you have other symptoms or risk factors, such as exposure to someone who has COVID-19, travel to an area with high transmission, or underlying health conditions that make you more vulnerable to complications.
The best way to know if you have COVID-19 is to get tested as soon as possible. You can contact your healthcare provider, your local health department, or a telehealth service, such as Phenix Health, to arrange a test and get advice on what to do next. You should also stay home and isolate yourself from others until you get your test results and follow the public health guidelines on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
How long does a sore throat last?
The duration of a sore throat depends on the type and cause of the problem. In general, a sore throat caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19, should last for about a week or less, and gradually improve as the infection clears. A sore throat caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, should start to get better within 24 to 48 hours of starting antibiotics, and completely resolve within a week. A sore throat caused by allergies or irritants should improve once the allergen or irritant is removed or avoided, and may also benefit from antihistamines or decongestants. A sore throat caused by overuse or misuse of the voice should heal within a few days of resting the voice and following the tips mentioned above.
However, some factors can make a sore throat last longer or recur more often, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, having a weak immune system, having chronic conditions, such as asthma, acid reflux, or diabetes, or having complications, such as tonsillitis, laryngitis, or abscesses. Therefore, it’s important to monitor your sore throat and seek medical attention if it does not improve or worsens over time, or if you have other symptoms or concerns.
Why do I have a sore throat, but I’m not sick?
Sometimes, you may have a sore throat but not feel sick or have any other symptoms. This can happen for various reasons, such as:
• Allergies: You may be allergic to something in the air, such as pollen, dust, mould, or animal dander, which can trigger an immune response and cause inflammation and irritation in the throat. You may also have other symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, or skin rashes.
• Irritants: You may be exposed to something that irritates the throat, such as smoke, pollution, chemicals, perfumes, or spicy foods, which can cause dryness and inflammation in the throat. You may also have other symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or a burning sensation in the mouth or throat.
• Dry air: You may be breathing air that is too dry, such as in winter, in air-conditioned rooms, or in high altitudes, which can cause the throat to lose moisture and become dry and scratchy. You may also have other symptoms, such as cracked lips, dry skin, or nosebleeds.
• Voice strain: You may be using your voice too much or too loudly, such as when you talk, shout, sing, or whisper, which can cause the vocal cords to become swollen and inflamed. You may also have other symptoms, such as hoarseness, loss of voice, or difficulty speaking.
• Acid reflux: You may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is when the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the throat. You may also have other symptoms, such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, or bad breath.
If you have a sore throat but are not sick, you can try some of the tips mentioned above to relieve the pain and discomfort. However, if your sore throat persists or worsens, or if you have other symptoms or concerns, you should consult a doctor or a telehealth service, such as Phenix Health, to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Can telehealth diagnose sore throat?
Telehealth is a way to receive health care services remotely through electronic devices, such as computers, tablets, or smartphones or even a regular phone call. Telehealth can be a convenient and effective way to diagnose and treat various health conditions, including sore throat. Telehealth can offer the following benefits for sore throat patients:
• Availability: You can use telehealth services from any location, as long as you have a device with a phone or internet connection. This can help you save time, money, and trouble of going to a clinic or hospital. This can be very helpful if you live in a rural or remote area, have a disability, or have other obligations that make it hard to go to in-person appointments.
• Flexibility: You can book telehealth appointments at a time that works for you, and pick the mode of communication that you like, such as phone, video, or chat. You can also get your prescriptions, referrals, and test results sent electronically.
• Consistency: You can get regular and reliable follow-up and feedback from your telehealth provider, who can monitor your progress, change your treatment plan, and encourage you to keep going. You can also get access to online resources, such as educational materials, home remedies, and support groups, that can improve your learning and involvement.
• Confidentiality: You can get telehealth services in a private and cozy setting, such as your home or office, without having to care about other people’s views or comments. You can also get telehealth services from a provider who is not in your local area if you want to keep your sore throat secret.
To diagnose a sore throat through telehealth, you must book an online consultation with a doctor or a nurse, who will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and risk factors. They can also examine your throat visually, using a video call or a photo, and look for signs of infection, inflammation, or other problems. They may also ask you to perform some tests, such as taking your temperature or checking your pulse. Based on your diagnosis, they will prescribe the appropriate treatment, such as medication, home remedies, or lifestyle changes, and monitor your recovery. They may also refer you to a specialist, such as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor, if needed.