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.
If a fever accompanies a sore throat, investigating the cause is necessary because it may be due to a more serious underlying condition.
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:
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:
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.
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.
If you have a sore throat for over a few days, consider getting a second opinion, especially if you also experience a fever.
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.