Sore Throat

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View The Anatomy of a Sore Throat Slideshow

Quick GuidePictures of Common Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

Pictures of Common Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

What can I do if I have a sore throat and am pregnant?

If you are pregnant and your sore throat symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor. Home remedies such as over-the-counter lozenges or saltwater gargles are generally safe. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used for pain or fever. If symptoms last for more than three days, or are associated with a fever, you should see your doctor to be tested for strep throat.

What if I have multiple recurrent episodes of strep throat?

There are a number of situations in which a child or adult can have recurrent positive strep tests.

  1. The first, and most common, is that the strep bacteria were never eradicated in the first place. The person did not get all of the doses of the medication prescribed. Unless the affected person takes a full 5 to 10 day course of antibiotics, the strep throat will not clear. Even missing a dose or two can be a problem. The patient should take all medication exactly as prescribed, and finish all the medication, even if the sore throat has resolved.
  2. Individuals may be asymptomatic carriers of strep (a person who has strep in their throats all the time as part of their normal bacteria, but without symptoms of a sore throat). It may be necessary to test close contacts of a person with recurrent episodes of strep to see if they are carriers.
  3. All strep throat bacteria will be killed by penicillin. If penicillin does not cure strep throat, the affected person should see their doctor. In rare cases, other bacteria in the throat can secrete an enzyme (penicillinase) that breaks down penicillin. This can be overcome by using a drug that is resistant to this enzyme.

How can I prevent a sore throat?

Certain causes of sore throat are often preventable. As already mentioned, infection is the most common cause of sore throat. Therefore, whether the sore throat is caused by a viral infection or strep throat, certain measures can be taken to prevent acquiring and transmitting the infection.

  • Individuals should try to avoid close contact with people who are already ill with a viral upper respiratory tract infection or with strep throat (and other bacterial infections).
  • Good personal hygiene habits, such as frequent and thorough handwashing, will also help decrease transmission.
  • If someone is ill, avoid sharing personal objects (such as dishes, cups or utensils), and encourage them to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing and to frequently wash their own hands.
  • Avoid touching potentially infected surfaces (computers, doorknobs, or phones) and avoid direct contact with handkerchiefs, napkins, Kleenex or towels being used by an ill contact.
  • Individuals who are taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection should be encouraged to finish their course of antibiotics to completely eradicate the infection and decrease disease transmission.

Certain measures can be taken to help prevent other less common causes of sore throat.

  • As already mentioned, OTC medications can help prevent sore throat in certain cases of GERD, allergies, postnasal drip, and cough.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke, pollutants and noxious airborne chemicals can prevent sore throat.
  • Appropriate safety measures and protective sports gear can help avoid traumatic injury to the neck and throat.
  • Chewing food carefully in order to prevent injury to the throat from a foreign body (from a fish bone, for example), and avoidance of excessive or prolonged yelling can help prevent throat irritation as a cause of sore throat.

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American Board of Surgery

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery. Sore Throats.

CDC.gov. Is It Strep Throat?

CDC. Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work.

Cochrane Library Review. Zinc for the common cold (Review).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015

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