Sore Throat (Pharyngitis) (cont.)

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How is the diagnosis of sore throat made?

In order to diagnose the cause of a sore throat, a health care professional will obtain a detailed history of your illness and conduct a physical exam. Based on this evaluation, the cause of the sore throat can better be determined. Because most cases of sore throat are associated with infection, your health care professional may need to conduct testing to differentiate between a bacterial cause of infection and a viral cause of infection. If there is suspicion of strep throat, for example, most often your health care professional will perform a throat swab in order to run a rapid antigen detection test (rapid strep test). Results for this test take only minutes and can generally be obtained during your visit. A throat culture may be sent to the lab for definitive evaluation of strep throat if the initial rapid strep test is negative, and these results are typically available within 24 to 48 hours.

Usually no further testing is necessary but depending on the details of your history and the findings on your physical exam, your health care professional may need to obtain further testing to help determine the cause of your sore throat. Blood tests may be ordered, and radiologic imaging (a CT scan, for example) of the throat and neck area may also be necessary to evaluate for other various causes of sore throat (abscess, trauma/injury, tumor, etc). In certain cases, you may be referred to a specialist depending on your symptoms and presumptive diagnosis (an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, for example).

What are home remedies to soothe a sore throat?

There are various remedies that can be used at home to help soothe a sore throat, including:

  • Gargling with warm saltwater (1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) and then spitting it out.
  • Drinking warm liquids (such as caffeine-free tea, water with honey, or warm soup broth) or eating a popsicle or ice cream.
  • Using a humidifier to moisten dry air.

If the sore throat is caused by infection, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and to rest in order to prevent dehydration and to allow your body to properly recover.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/18/2013

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