A sore throat is a painful but common affliction that everyone suffers from on occasion. It may be the first sign of a cold, the result of strained vocal cords or a symptom of a more serious condition such as strep throat. As miserable as a sore throat can make you feel, in many cases symptoms clear up quickly and without medical treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sore Throat?
Symptoms of a sore throat include pain, scratchiness, dry throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, swollen neck or jaw glands and swollen or inflamed tonsils. You may also have a fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sneezing, headache, muscle and joint aches, nausea and vomiting.
What Causes a Sore Throat?
Most sore throats are the result of viral infections, often related to the common cold or flu. Bacterial infections can also lead to sore throats. Some of the more common ones include strep throat, tonsillitis, whooping cough and diphtheria.
Additional factors that can cause a sore throat include allergies, acid reflux, environmental irritants, dry air and strained vocal cords. Occasionally a more serious condition, such as a tumor or HIV, can cause a sore throat.
Treatment & Prevention of Sore Throat
Home remedies are often the most effective treatment method for a sore throat. Try gargling with warm salt water periodically through the day. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, and use throat lozenges and cough drops to relieve soreness and irritation.
A humidifier is often helpful. Over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants are beneficial at providing relief as well. If your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, you’ll need to treat it with antibiotics.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a sore throat in the future. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap, cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve and do not share food or utensils with others who are sick.
Hoarseness is an inflammation of the larynx that results in a change in the voice, making it sound breathy, raspy, scratchy or strained. There may be changes in volume and pitch, as well. Hoarseness falls under the medical category of dysphonia, which refers to voice impairment or any sort of difficulty speaking.
What Causes Hoarseness?
Hoarseness is the result of a problem with the vocal cords. It can be caused by a variety of different conditions including cold or sinus infections, acute laryngitis, voice misuse or abuse, benign vocal cord lesions, acid reflux, vocal hemorrhage, tobacco and alcohol use, thyroid diseases, cancer, trauma to the voice box and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or spasmodic dysphonia, a chronic vocal cord disorder.
How Is Hoarseness Treated?
Many times, hoarseness clears up on its own without any sort of medical intervention. Many patients take a wait-and-see approach, treating symptoms with home remedies that include resting the voice, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Making certain lifestyle changes – eliminating spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine from the diet, giving up cigarettes, avoiding activities that cause vocal cord strain such as shouting, whispering, or using inappropriate pitch or volume – are all helpful ways to reduce or eliminate the symptoms associated with chronic hoarseness.
Sometimes, a trip to see an otolaryngologist or other ENT specialist is necessary. If hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, is not accompanied by cold or flu symptoms, affects your ability to swallow or breathe or otherwise interferes with your livelihood, schedule an appointment with Midwest Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists.
You will be given a thorough physical examination, including the ears, nose, and throat, and may be given a laryngoscopy or other special test to help analyze the vocal folds. Treatment depends on the cause and may include drugs, surgery, and/or voice therapy.