Sore throat

Sore throat

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​Sore throat normally refers to pain and ache in the pharynx and throat. Reasons for soreness may be manifold. Most common reasons include a throat infection and dry mucous membranes. You can alleviate a sore throat with self-care.

A sore throat is very common with viral and bacterial respiratory tract infections. Nasal congestion due to a common cold or allergy may also force you to breathe through the mouth. Breathing through the mouth dries the throat, which then causes pain. Also many substances, e.g. chemicals, cigarettes, and dust, irritate the mucous membranes in the throat, which may also cause pain. If you have a feeling of a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing, this may be caused by tension around the throat or a nervous disorder or even incorrect use of the voice. Throat pain often radiates into the ears, even though the ears are not infected. In chronic throat infections, the throat is constantly slightly sore and white, and you may get hard and foul-tasting lumps, tonsil stones, in your mouth.

Strep throat, Streptococcus A infection, is the most common type of sore throat caused by bacteria. The symptoms of strep throat usually do not include a cough or blocked nose. Bacterial infection is confirmed with a bacterial throat culture or a rapid strep test. Typical findings in strep throat include the following:

  • rapid onset of the symptoms
  • very sore throat
  • temperature over 38°C
  • white spots or patches on the tonsils
  • swollen and tender glands under the jaw.
  • headache

Self-care

​You can treat a flu-induced sore throat at home: Hot drinks, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and analgesic medicines, like ibuprofen and paracetamol, alleviate the symptoms. You can also try lozenges that numb the throat. Pharmacy staff will help you select the right product, if necessary. A sudden viral throat infection is usually mild and gets better on its own, but sometimes the symptoms last longer.

​External irritants such as tobacco smoke can also cause a sore throat; this is best avoided by avoiding the irritant.​

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • you have difficulty swallowing fluids or saliva, or opening your mouth.
  • your speech becomes slurred.
  • you have difficulty breathing.
  • your throat feels more painful when lying down.
  • you have noticeable swelling around your throat,
  • you have a foreign object in your throat, which you cannot remove.
  • the pain is caused by corrosive substance you swallowed.
  • you have severe pain in your throat and high temperature (over 38.5 C).
  • the pain is severe only on one side (one-sided throat pain).
  • ​your symptoms do not improve in a week’s time.
  • ​​your general health deteriorates.

To evaluate your throat symptoms, you can also do the Omaolo symptoms check. The questionnaire will help you to decide when and where you should seek medical advice.

Do you think you might have a coronavirus infection?

The disease caused by coronavirus is a sudden respiratory tract infection. The symptoms are similar to common cold symptoms. Based on the symptoms only, it is impossible to say whether you have coronavirus infection or an infection caused by some other flu virus. You can assess the likelihood of an infection on Coronabot or Omaolo coronavirus symptom checker 

For more information on coronavirus, see Coronavirus (Covid-19) section on Infektiotalo (Infection Hub) website.

More information

The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​

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Updated  22.4.2021