A sore throat, or pharyngitis, can be irritating and painful, and cause difficulty in swallowing. There are several conditions that can result in a sore throat. While many of them can be treated at home, there are other instances that require a doctor visit and possible throat cultures or blood work.

Viruses and Sore Throats

Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the colder winter months, and viruses are often a culprit. Viruses that have a sore throat as one of the symptoms include:

  • Common cold
  • Influenza
  • Mononucleosis
  • Chicken Pox
  • Whooping cough
  • Croup


Tonsillitis, or an inflammation of the tonsils, the two oval-shaped pieces of tissue in the back of the throat, can also cause a sore throat. Because tonsils are the immune system’s first line of defense against germs and viruses, they are more prone to infection. Children and teenagers are most often affected with this condition. Common viruses can cause tonsillitis, as can bacterial infections (see Strep Throat below). Other signs of tonsillitis are white or yellow patches on the tonsils, difficulty swallowing, enlarged lymph nodes, a fever, and a stiff neck. Those who have more than seven episodes of confirmed tonsillitis in one year, obstructive sleep apnea or swallowing difficulty may want to consult an ENT specialist about the possibility of having surgery to remove the tonsils.

Strep Throat

One of the causes of tonsillitis is strep throat, caused by group A Streptococcus. This illness causes throat pain, irritation, difficulty swallowing, a fever of 101 degrees or higher, headache, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. A throat culture (or swab of the back of the throat) can determine if the pain and redness is a result of a bacterial or viral infection. A confirmed case of group A Streptococcus is typically treated with a course of antibiotics, over-the-counter pain relievers, and rest and fluids. Your physician can advise you on how soon you can return to work or school after a diagnosis. Antibiotics are not prescribed to treat sore throats caused by viruses.



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