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A Sore and Swollen Throat

A sore and swollen throat, a medical condition called pharyngitis, is often accompanied by scratchiness, painful swallowing and swollen tonsils 1. Most sore throats do not indicate a serious condition and usually resolve on their own. A sore throat may be present on its own or indicative of another illness, such as flu or strep throat 1.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Symptoms

Symptoms that indicate an underlying cause:

  • or illness include vomiting
  • headache
  • rash
  • inability to swallow
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • fever

An inflammation of the tonsils and pharynx, the area behind the nasal cavity and mouth, is often seen as well.

Causes

What Are the Causes of an Infection of the Tonsils?

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Most sore and swollen throats are caused by a viral infection. The most common viruses that result in a sore throat are the common cold virus, influenza virus and mononucleosis 1. Other less common viruses include measles and chickenpox, notes the Mayo Clinic 1.

Bacterial infections can also cause sore throats 2. The most common bacterial infection is strep throat, according to Medline Plus. Other bacterial infections include tonsillitis and diphtheria, which is common in developing nations. Both viruses and bacteria enter through the nose and mouth as a result of airborne pathogens or contact with an infected person. Other causes of sore and swollen throat include allergies, pollution, dry air, tumors and HIV infection 1.

Treatment

In the case of a sore and swollen throat caused by bacteria, treatment consists of a series of antibiotics 1. All of the antibiotics must be taken, even if symptoms go away before the antibiotics are gone.

Viral sore throats cannot be treated by medication. The doctor will recommend rest and plenty of fluids throughout the day. Usually a viral sore throat will resolve itself in approximately 10 days, however, those caused by mononucleosis can last over four weeks, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians 12.

Recommendations to ease the pain and discomfort associated with a sore throat include gargling with warm salt water, sucking on throat lozenges, candy or popsicles, and taking a pain reliever 1.

  • In the case of a sore and swollen throat caused by bacteria, treatment consists of a series of antibiotics 1.
  • All of the antibiotics must be taken, even if symptoms go away before the antibiotics are gone.

Prevention

Diseases of the Tonsils

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The best method of prevention is frequent hand washing. Other prevention methods include not sharing utensils or drinks with others, regular disinfection of items such as telephones and door handles, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying indoors on days of high pollution and installing a humidifier in your home.

Considerations

Sore throats are a common occurrence.

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