What are the Causes of a Sore Throat?
It happens to the best of us — that painful, scratchy feeling you get at the back of your throat. It’s hard to swallow and talk. Perhaps it’s even challenging your ability to eat and sleep. Desperate for relief, you may find yourself sucking on throat lozenges or trying your hand at a home remedy. But what is causing it? And how can you know if your sore throat is something serious? Here are some likely causes for your throat irritation:
1. Viral Infections
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection. In fact, viruses are to blame for about 90% of all reported sore throats. If you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as a fever or body aches, this is the biggest clue that a virus is the culprit. If the problem persists, you should probably see your doctor. They may diagnose you with one of the following viral infections:
- The common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Mono (mononucleosis)
- COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)
2. Bacterial Infections
Bacteria could also be the agent of your throat discomfort. This is more typical in children and youth but adults aren’t immune to the possibility. A bacterial infection will usually be present in the tonsils or even the throat itself. The most common sore throat-causing bacteria are:
- Strep throat
- STIs (like gonorrhea and chlamydia)
3. Environmental Irritants
The very air you breathe could be irritating your throat. If the air is dry, your throat will be dry, causing that scratchy feeling we all know and don’t love. Other bothersome particles in the air may also be making their way into your throat. It could be from:
- Smoke (fire or tobacco)
- Dust and dirt
- Cleaning products
- Other chemicals
When allergens like pollen or mold trigger allergic reactions, it can cause sinus symptoms like congestion and a runny nose. The increase in mucus will cause postnasal drip. As mucus repetitively drips down the back of your throat, it will cause irritation and soreness.
5. Tonsil Stones
Also called tonsilloliths, tonsil stones are deposits formed within the crevices of your tonsils. Debris from food, dead cells, saliva, and mucus can get trapped in tonsils pits and build up over time. This also attracts odorous bacteria and fungi. When tonsil stones become large or increase in number, they can cause a distinct sore throat.
6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition where your stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. When the acid makes its way up your throat, it will subsequently cause pain, burning, and hoarseness.
7. Throat Injury
Ever wake up with a sore throat after a fun-filled day at the theme park or a music festival? Overusing your vocal cords by screaming or singing can injure your throat and cause temporary or prolonged soreness. Food can also injure your throat if it’s too hot or gets stuck.
Though uncommon, tumors of the throat, voice box, or tongue can also lead to sore throats. If a sore throat continues for an extended period, you should probably see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and get a cancer screening. Your throat doctor may also check for other accompanying symptoms such as visible lumps, difficulty swallowing, or blood in the saliva.
Schedule an Appointment with Breathe Clear Institute
Some sore throats are benign and go away on their own. But if you’re plagued by a persistent sore throat or are worried it could be serious, the medical professionals at Breathe Clear Institute can help. We take a holistic approach to health and will start by diagnosing the root cause of your discomfort to then customize a throat treatment plan for your specific needs. Schedule an appointment with an ENT from Breathe Clear institute and start feeling better today!