A sore throat can have many causes including:
- Common viruses, and even the viruses that cause mononucleosis (mono) and the flu, can cause a sore throat. Some viruses can also produce blisters in the mouth and throat ("aphthous stomatitis").
- Breathing through the mouth can produce throat dryness and soreness.
- Sinus drainage (post nasal drip) may cause a sore throat.
- A sore throat can also be caused by bacteria. The two most common bacteria to cause a sore throat are Streptococcus (which causes strep throat) and Arcanobacterium haemolyticum. Arcanobacterium causes sore throats mainly in young adults and is sometimes associated with a fine red rash.
- Sore throat appearing after treatment with antibiotics, chemotherapy, or other immune-compromising medications may be due to Candida, commonly known as "thrush."
- A sore throat lasting for more than two weeks can be a sign of a serious illness, such as throat cancer or AIDS.
What can I do at home for a sore throat?
Generally, sore throats must run their course (exception, strep throat will be addressed below.)
- Salt water gargles, hard candies, sprays for example, Chloraseptic) and lozenges can provide temporary pain relief. (Caution: Lozenges and hard candy are a choking hazard for children. Avoid their use in young children.)
- A humidifier may be helpful in relieving symptoms, especially in sore throats caused by mouth breathing and dry air.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help control the pain.
- For adults, if your nose is plugged, nasal sprays such as Afrin may be used for two to three days to prevent mouth breathing. It is NOT a good idea to use these products for more than a couple of days; you may become dependent on them.
- Other decongestant products, such as Sudafed, may be helpful.