Sore Throat – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

sore throat

The sore throat or sore throat is also referred to as pharyngitis in medical jargon . This is one of the most common diseases in the ear, nose and throat area, in which the mucous membrane of the throat is inflamed.

What is a sore throat?

One of the most common diseases of the throat is inflammation of the throat (pharyngitis) ; Here, the doctor differentiates between two types: chronic and acute pharyngitis.

While acute sore throat is usually caused by viruses or bacteria, the chronic form of this disease is long-term irritation in the throat and neck area.

Numerous factors, such as environmental toxins or cigarette smoke , come into play here. The acute form of pharyngitis is very contagious.


The main cause of acute sore throat is viruses, and in a few cases bacteria. There are far more causes for chronic sore throat: Both cigarette smoke and room air that is too dry come into question here.

The radiation exposed during radiation therapy can also trigger chronic pharyngitis. Other possible causes are alcohol , food that is too spicy or too hot, or allergies .

Some diseases should also be mentioned, which in turn can cause a sore throat. This includes an underactive thyroid gland as well as diabetes. Women going through the menopause are particularly affected by a sore throat.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A sore throat or pharyngitis is usually announced with a scratchy throat. If the sufferer responds promptly by taking anti-inflammatory drugs, the symptoms of sore throat can still be stopped or lessened.

A dry feeling in the throat later adds to the scratching. Swallowing becomes increasingly difficult . Sore throat radiating into the ears . Those affected clear their throats until they finally start coughing. With a fully developed pharyngitis, the main symptom is a severe sore throat. Swallowing is painful. Speaking can also be painful.

In many cases, those affected develop a slight fever . Children may have higher temperatures when they have a sore throat. Chills may occur. The absence of the pharyngeal tonsils favors severe courses. It also increases the likelihood of illness.

To top it all off, the typical symptoms of pharyngitis are often accompanied by a cough and runny nose , sometimes also by feelings of weakness and sweating . It can lead to severe hoarseness and nocturnal fits of coughing. Patients experience a strong feeling of illness. Throat feels like it’s sore when swallowing acidic juices.

In the second stage of the pharyngitis, there is a lot of mucus formation. In addition to the symptoms of pharyngitis, there may be symptoms of collateral angina. These can lead to middle ear infections and severe ear pain .

Diagnosis & History

Acute pharyngitis is usually associated with severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Fever and headaches can also occur. The doctor usually recognizes an acute sore throat at first glance, because it is then very red.

Often, however, he will also examine the nose, because obstructed nasal breathing can also trigger the sore throat. Inflammation of the nasal mucosa or sinuses , typical side effects of a cold , can also occur as part of the pharyngitis. In the case of chronic sore throat, patients usually feel a dryness in the throat area and also the feeling of having to constantly clear their throat. Patients also often complain of a dry cough. This can lead to sleep disorders, which severely restricts the quality of life of the patient.

The doctor also recognizes chronic sore throat with the help of the so-called mirror examination and recognizes various signs here. For example, in the atrophic form, the mucosa is smooth and shiny, while in the hyperplastic form, the pharyngeal mucosa appears thickened and the soft palate appears slack. The third form of chronic pharyngitis is simple chronic pharyngitis.

The course of a sore throat depends on how quickly it is treated. Acute inflammation can quickly develop into chronic inflammation. With the right treatment, however, both forms of the disease can be cured and take a benign course.


Complications from a sore throat are rare, but cannot be completely ruled out. In medicine, a distinction is made between purulent and non-purulent sequelae. One of the typical purulent complications of pharyngitis is tonsillitis (angina tonsillaris).This leads to a secondary bacterial infection of the tonsils, which is usually caused by streptococci. A whitish-yellow coating forms on the almonds. These swollen pimples cause severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing and are often accompanied by a high fever. Because there is a risk of further complications such as blood poisoning due to tonsillitis, it must be treated immediately by a doctor.

Another complication is lateral cord angina. It mainly affects patients who have had their tonsils removed surgically. In addition to the severe sore throat, typical signs are swollen lymph nodes and general symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches. Also one of the secondary diseases is inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis), which causes severe hoarseness. The patient can even lose his voice completely.

One of the most serious complications of pharyngitis is the formation of an abscess. An abscess (encapsulated collection of pus) develops when the local sore throat spreads to the adjacent connective tissue. Depending on where the abscess occurs, the medical term is a parapharyngeal abscess, a peritonsillar abscess, or a retropharyngeal abscess. Thus, the parapharyngeal abscess appears lateral to the pharyngeal region, the peritonsillar abscess in the tonsil connective tissue, and the retropharyngeal abscess behind the pharyngeal region.

When should you go to the doctor?

A sore throat, a scratchy throat or problems with swallowing indicate a health irregularity. If the symptoms persist for several days or if they increase in intensity, a doctor should be consulted. Redness in the throat, dry mucous membrane in the mouth or loss of appetite should be examined and treated. If there is hoarseness, a general feeling of illness or coughing fits, the person concerned should have the symptoms clarified. A sore throat is characterized by an increase in coughing fits during sleep and difficulty swallowing.

In the event of slight discrepancies, various self-help measures can bring relief. If an alleviation of the symptoms is already noticed after a restful night’s sleep, in many cases there is no need to consult a doctor.

However, if severe night sweats develop, jaw pain or lymphatic swelling occurs, a doctor is required. Fever, problems in the ear area, internal weakness and a decrease in physical and mental performance should be presented to a doctor. Colds and voice impairments should also be examined. A refusal to eat, weight loss, or internal dryness are causes for concern. In the case of dehydration, an emergency service must be alerted, as the affected person is in a life-threatening condition.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment for a sore throat depends on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Acute sore throat can often be controlled with simple home remedies such as throat rinses, lozenges or cold neck wraps.

Antibiotic drugs are usually of little help here, since bacteria rarely cause the disease. A lot of warm liquid can help with an acute sore throat, similar to a normal cold, well against the sore throat.

If there is a chronic sore throat, the cause must first be clarified and then eliminated. Inhalations with chamomile or sage also usually help quite well. Surgery is only necessary in some cases if nasal breathing is impaired.


Acute pharyngitis can only be prevented to a limited extent. However, it is important to strengthen the body’s own defences. This includes a healthy diet with enough fruit and vegetables as well as plenty of exercise in the fresh air. At best, you should avoid smoking and alcohol altogether. If you work in the office, make sure there is enough fresh air – air humidifiers can help very well here. You should also not forget to drink enough, especially in heavily air-conditioned rooms.


A mild sore throat often heals on its own. It does not require any further intensive follow-up care. If the inflammation is more severe, the affected person feels pain in the throat, which worsens when eating. Symptoms also include malaise, fever and swollen lymph nodes. Follow-up care is required here to counteract the symptoms. Complete healing is the short- to medium-term goal of treatment.

In the case of a sore throat, the classic home remedies have proven themselves in addition to antibiotic medicine. Keeping calm, wearing a scarf to protect your neck from the cold and drinking warm tea will provide relief and speed up the healing process. Peppermint tea or chamomile tea are best administered beverages.

Chamomile tea is said to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Sucking on sage candy moisturizes the irritated mucous membranes. This relieves the difficulty in swallowing. If the inflammation has not noticeably improved after a week, another visit to the doctor is advisable. This avoids spreading the disease. Other diseases can hide behind the symptoms.

Tonsillitis, for example, is expressed by similar symptoms. During follow-up care, the patient is examined again in a more targeted manner. Once the actual cause has been determined, the specialist treats these symptoms until they can be successfully eliminated.

You can do that yourself

Lozenges and gargling solutions from the drugstore help with a sore throat. Herbal teas and sprays also bring short-term relief due to their local anesthetic. Sick people should also drink plenty of fluids and keep their throats warm. Well-known home remedies such as warm compresses, milk with honey or gentle massages reduce the pain.

The mucus in the nose and sinuses is loosened by inhaling chamomile tea or special preparations from the pharmacy . Appropriate products also relieve hoarseness and sore throat. If the symptoms do not go away despite using these home remedies, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Chronic sore throat is best treated by eliminating or avoiding the stimulus that causes it. Depending on the cause, this can be achieved, for example, by stopping smoking or by regularly airing the room. A stay at the sea has just as positive an effect on the mucous membranes as inhaling salty water. Natural remedies such as Iceland moss or sagehelp with severe pain with inflamed airways.

In general, sufferers should avoid speaking during a sore throat and instead take it easy. Sport and strenuous physical work must not be carried out. Those affected should also avoid stress so that the sore throat can subside quickly. Which measures make sense in detail should always be discussed with your family doctor or ear, nose and throat doctor beforehand.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.