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Sore throat
Sore throat

Sore throat

Sore throat or pharyngitis causes pain, difficulty swallowing and discomfort. A bacterial or viral infection often causes it, but also the flu or a cold. A sore throat may also occur with tender or swollen lymph glands (in the neck).

Other common symptoms of a sore throat, especially if it is due to a viral or bacterial infection, include the following.

  • Cough
  • Headache
  • General aches and body pain, fatigue or sore muscles
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose (rhinitis)
  • A high temperature (fever) of 100.4F or 38C, or above

If a fever accompanies a sore throat, investigating the cause is necessary because it may be due to a more serious underlying condition.

  • Strep throat – a bacterial infection
  • Epiglottis – inflammation and redness of the tissue at the back of the throat that causes breathing difficulty
  • Laryngitis – inflammation of the voice box (larynx)
  • Glandular fever – often causes swelling in the glands in the neck
  • An abscess, sometimes called quinsy or painful pus collection between the wall of the throat and the tonsil, is often a symptom of tonsillitis.


A sore throat doesn’t usually have a cause but is mostly a symptom of a bacterial infection, such as tonsillitis, the common cold or virus-like influenza.

The most common viral and bacterial causes of a sore throat include:

  • Some types of streptococcal bacteria, such as group A streptococcal bacteria (the cause of 30% of sore throats in children and 10% of sore throats in adults), group G and C.
  • Common cold viruses such as coronavirus, parainfluenza, and rhinovirus are responsible for about 25% of all sore throats.

Other viruses and bacteria are responsible for a fewer number of cases (less than 5% of sore throat cases), including the type A and B flu viruses, Epstein Barr virus (EBV) (which causes glandular fever and mono), herpes simplex virus type 1 (cold sore virus) and adenovirus (causes conjunctivitis).


Symptoms of a sore throat include:

  • Cough
  • Body aches and pains or sore muscles
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Headache
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Fever
  • Fatigue


Your GP will ask about any symptoms you experience and conduct a physical examination. During your physical exam, the doctor will check your throat for swollen lymph nodes and your ears and nose for signs of infection.

If your doctor suspects a sore throat or tonsilitis, they will take a swab of the back of your throat to get a sample, then use a rapid step test to determine if you have a strep bacterial infection. The results will be available in a few minutes. If your result is negative for strep, the doctor will opt for a throat culture to check for other bacterial infections. This result will take about 24 hours.

Depending on your symptoms and the test result, the doctor should give an accurate diagnosis.

If you feel unwell and have a painful throat or experience ongoing or recurrent sore throat, call Medical Express Clinic on 020 499 1991 to book an appointment with our doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the likely complications from a sore throat?

Some people are at a higher risk of getting complications from a sore throat than others. These people include those with leukaemia or bone marrow cancer, aplastic anaemia, HIV or AIDS infection, or taking immunosuppressants, a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) or antithyroid medication, or receiving chemotherapy treatment.

What can I do if my doctor can’t find the cause of my sore throat but it isn’t going away?

If you have a sore throat for over a few days, consider getting a second opinion, especially if you also experience a fever.

What can I do to soothe my sore throat?

It is best to see a doctor if you have a sore throat instead of self-diagnosing. Consult with your GP about the best treatment option.