updated: Aug. 01, 2018
It started as a small itch, but now it’s completely bloomed into a sore throat. Do you know the best way to treat it? No matter the cause, your doctor can help you alleviate the pain.
What Could Be Causing Your Sore Throat
The first step in figuring out how to treat your sore throat is determining its source. A sore throat can be a symptom of many different issues, such as smoking or allergies, but the three most common causes are—
A cold: Often, a sore throat is just the first sign of a viral cold. You’ll know if this is the case for you if the pain subsides after a day or two and if you begin exhibiting other cold symptoms, like a runny nose or cough.
Strep throat: Caused by an infection of the streptococcus bacteria passed through saliva and nasal secretions, strep throat is a more severe cause of a sore throat. Other symptoms common to it are white spots on your throat area, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck.
Tonsillitis: This is a very painful sore throat caused by an inflammation of the tonsils from an infection by viruses or bacteria. Tonsillitis’s biggest additional symptom is swollen tonsils with white or yellow spots, but others are bad breath and an impaired voice from the swelling.
What You Can Do at Home
If your sore throat is caused by a virus, there isn’t much you can do other than let the virus run its course. But no matter what is causing your sore throat, there are steps you can take at home to ease your pain and help you get better, including:
∙ Get plenty of sleep and avoid speaking more than necessary
∙ Drink lots of fluids to keep your throat moist and you hydrated. Just avoid dehydrating liquids like coffee and alcohol.
∙ Stick to soothing foods and beverages. This includes warm liquids like soup or water with honey and cool treats like Jell-O or ice cream.
∙ Gargle with saltwater—¼–½tspn sea salt to 4–8oz warm water.
Lozenges and over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can also help alleviate a sore throat, but be cautious if you’re treating your child.
Treatment from Your Doctor
You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you are dealing with a severe or persistent sore throat. A rapid strep test is often needed to diagnose strep throat, and only your doctor can tell for sure if you have tonsillitis and if it is from a bacteria or virus. If the cause of a sore throat is bacteria, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin to kill it. Always take all of the medication as prescribed, even if you already feel better, and stay home until 24 hours after starting the antibiotic.
Sore throats can definitely be painful but they don’t have to be frustrating or a cause for worry. If you have any questions or concerns about a sore throat or any other symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your doctor today.