What Causes Sore Throat? Types, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Winters are here, and when you combine this seasonal facet with a ubiquitous facet of pollution, you have a recipe of medical conditions that can be both annoying and life-threatening. A sore throat is one such condition. Just imagine yourself walking down the road, and suddenly, you feel it, a tiny sensation at the back of your throat. This tiny irritation stimulates you to cough, and then it does the same thing again, and then again. This repeated coughing assault soon turns into a sore throat. The causes of sore throat can be many, and so are the risk factors associated with it. Fortunately, there are treatments that you won’t have to look far for. First thing you should check is if its sore throat on one side or whole.

You would do well to ensure that your sore throat doesn’t “soar” too high, or your throat would be damaged.

Types of a Sore Throat

Before we begin with the discussion towards the causes, risk factors and treatment of a sore throat, you should know about its types:

  • Pharyngitis: It is the most common form of a sore throat and the area affected is right behind the mouth.
  • Laryngitis: In this case, the voice box, or larynx gets a bit swelled up.
  • Tonsillitis: Tonsils are soft tissues that exist at the back of the mouth. Tonsillitis is a condition that can lead to its swelling.

Common Causes of Sore Throat-

In most cases, people would know the cause of their sore throat affliction. The reason for this self-awareness is that in many cases, repeated coughing and throat discomfort happen due to the causes that are already pretty well known. As for others, the doctors would need to identify them. Here are some of the common causes associated with throat irritation:

1. Viral Infections:

You would not be surprised to know that more than half of the cases about a sore throat are because of viral infections. Considering that there are 200 different types of viruses that can lead to this condition, you can understand the reason for so many cases. When viral infections are responsible, more often than not, sore throat has other accompanying symptoms like the sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, fever, and headache. You let these, and you might also develop tonsillitis. The most common viruses that cause this issue are adeno viruses, rhinoviruses, as well as corona viruses. However, if we dig deep and look at the more complex viruses:

  • Infectious mononucleosis: This one is caused due to the Epstein-Barr virus. It is a form of herpes virus found in the saliva.
  • Herpes simplex Virus: This one causes the appearance of lesions in the throat that are ulcerative.
  • Measles Virus: If the baby has been properly vaccinated, then the parents don’t have anything to worry about. However, if that is not the case, then measles has been known to give a sore throat.
  • HIV: This immune disorder leaves the body vulnerable to infections, any one of which can cause a sore throat.

2. Bacterial Infections:

Many bacterial infections can contribute to the appearance of sore throat. One of such bacteria that leads to step throat is called Streptococcus pyogenes. Strep throat, while is a relatively minor problem can lead to severe issues. These severe issues entail fever, vomiting, nausea, halitosis (foul breath), and throat displaying a visible sign of inflammation. Many other infections can be counted as bacterial throat infections and they are as follows:

  • Bacterial Tonsillitis: Appearance of tonsillitis on the throat because of bacteria.
  • Bacterial Pneumonia: Other symptoms of pneumonia include high fever, headache, severe aches, chills, dry cough and extreme lethargy.
  • Bordetella Pertussis: This is a condition of whooping cough. It is a serious respiratory infection that entails other symptoms like vomiting, fever, difficulty in breathing, dehydration, and cyan like colouration around the mouth region.

3. Fungal infection due to Candida:

Candida Albicans is a type of yeast and the most prominent type of fungal infection when it comes to a sore throat. It is an opportunistic infection. It is a type of yeast that can cause both yeast infections and sore throat. Additionally, it can cause other symptoms as well like:

  • Fatigue and a lot of tiredness: Before oral thrush, this is the most common symptom associated with Candida Albicans. The reason for this is that this particular issue can cause a deficiency of many types of nutrients.
  • Genital and urinary tract infection: Candida is a yeast that can spread to the urinary regions and can cause infective problems there.
  • Digestive issues: Candida can cause the gut bacteria, or more properly, the “good” bacteria to become imbalanced. As a result of that, digestive issues are prominent as well.

4. Allergies:

Sore throat, can also be caused when certain allergen travels down through your nose or your mouth. Most of these allergies cause the nose to become stuffy. And anyone who has, have or is going through the stuffy nose knows that you would need to breathe through your mouth. This can cause further issues as it can cause the pharynx to dry. As a result of that, there is a scratchy feeling that accentuates on extreme irritation on the pharynx. As a result, sore throat becomes prevalent. However, there are also conditions where the allergy has a direct effect on the throat:

  • The case of anaphylaxis: In this case, an allergic reaction can take place due to foods, medications or stings. This can be, and the body can be sent to a state of anaphylactic shock.
  • Allergies due to pollution: More and more people are showing allergic symptoms towards pollution each day. The most common symptom of this allergy is a sore throat.

5. Throat injury:

We live in a world where tide-pod chewing is considered to be fun and fame giving. This and other reasons that are akin to this can be the cause of throat injuries of intense nature. Throat injury like swallowing some chemical or some hot liquid can directly damage the pharynx to some degree. The coughing can start right after such a situation.

Risk factors of a Sore throat

The risk factors of a sore throat are as follows:

1. Hygiene:

At the end of the day, everything that you do depends on our hygiene. If you are not taking good care of your hands, your body can become a petri-dish for external infections.

2. Toxins and Irritants:

In the last cause of a sore throat, we touched upon throat injury. We also touched upon a certain irritant that can be the cause of this. Other irritants of throat injury include cigarette, smoke, spicy foods, tobacco etc.

3. Environmental conditions:

If you reside anywhere near polluted cities where the quality of the air you are breathing has been described exaggeratedly (arguably) as akin to smoking 50 cigarettes. This is one of the environmental factors that make your throat susceptible to being irritable.

4. How you use your voice:

Your vocal cords react to your actions. Therefore, it isn’t far fetched to think that shouting too loudly, can cause this issue. To get this gist of this risk factor, if you are putting a bit too much physical strain on your vocal cords, sore throat is something to be expected.

We have discussed the common causes, and we have also discussed the risk factors, it is high time that we started dwelling upon the treatment as well.

Treatments for a Sore throat

One of the “good” things about Sore throat treatment is that you do not need to go far to look for it. Most of the treatments associated with a sore throat are home-based. Here are some of those treatments:

  1. Add some salt for warm water, use the mixture for gargling and spit it out later. Do this about 5 to 6 times, and it can provide you with some levity from an irritant throat.
  2. Warm liquids can help you to soothe your throat. When it comes tea, especially tea, you can mix in some herbs like ginger, black pepper and salt in it to get nearly instant relief from a sore throat.
  3. Get some cough drops, and they can help with the throat irritation immensely.
  4. Stay away from cold foods like a fruity popsicle and ice creams. They can backfire and create more issues for your throat.
  5. Pharyngitis is mostly caused due to dryness at the back of your throat. Therefore, invest in a humidifier. It can help you with creating a bit of humidity, and it can immensely help your throat.
  6. After you take a cough drop, make sure that you keep your mouth closed for a while. Better yet, if you want relief, you should sleep after you taking such medication.

A sore throat is an irritating condition. However, in most cases, this issue can be resolved on its own. That being said, there are some cases where the underlying cause of a sore throat might be more drastic. To that end, be vigilant and if any of the symptoms persist, or take “bloody” turn, call a doctor.


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Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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