A sore throat can occur for many reasons; most commonly its due to a virus that leads to the common cold or flu or in some cases a bacterial infection. Other factors that can cause sore throat symptoms include allergies, dryness and muscle strain.
The most common viral infections that are known to regularly cause sore throat symptoms include:
- The common cold
- Influenza (the flu)
- Croup – a childhood illness often recognised for a harsh, barking cough
The most common bacterial infections known to cause sore throat symptoms include:
- Diphtheria, which is a respiratory illness that is often serious. It is now rare in most western countries but it is still common in developing countries.
- Strep throat, which is an infection, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes.
- Whooping cough, which is a very contagious respiratory illness.
Certain allergies are very common, such as those to pollen, dust, mould, and pet dander. Although a sore throat is not usually a direct symptom of allergies, it can lead to the development of postnasal drip as a complication of the allergy. Postnasal drip occurs when mucus runs down the back of the throat causing irritation and inflammation. This will in turn cause sore throat symptoms including coughing.
Dryness is most likely to occur during winter when indoor buildings are heated, removing much of the moisture from the air. This can cause sore throat symptoms such as making the throat feel rough and scratchy, causing the urge to cough. This is most common in the mornings, after waking up. Excessive breathing through the mouth, which may be necessary for a number of reasons such as congested nasal passages, can also lead to dryness in the mouth and throat.
Irritants such as pollution in the air outside, tobacco smoke or chemicals can cause sore throat. If these conditions are experienced for a prolonged amount of time, it can result in chronic sore throat. Other throat irritants include spicy food, alcohol and chewing tobacco.
Straining the muscles in your throat can occur through yelling or speaking for a long time in a noisy environment. Even talking normally when it is for a long period of time can cause sore throat and hoarseness.
GERD is a disorder of the digestive system, where stomach acid moves back into the oesophagus. GERD most commonly causes heartburn but other symptoms include a sour taste in the mouth and the feeling of a lump in the throat or chest.
A sore throat along with other symptoms associated with flu is an early sign of being infected with HIV.
Cancerous tumours located on the tongue, throat or voice box can cause sore throat symptoms such as trouble swallowing, hoarseness and noisy breathing.