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When to Worry About a Sore Throat

Updated: Feb 1

That dreaded tingle has settled in the back of your throat. Is this a case of dry mouth or thirst, or are you about to face a full-blown sore throat? Keep reading to find out when your throat tickle needs help.

Having a sore throat is the worst. Not only does it often indicate a looming battle with an illness, but a tender throat is downright painful, making it hard to eat, drink, and talk. Thankfully, sore throats are almost always a symptom and they also almost always resolve on their own. However, there are cases when a sore throat just won’t quit, and you need a helping hand to kick it. 

Phylis Muthee, NP, ARNP, and our team at Ezzia Healthcare PLLC in Everett, Washington, know how PNW winters can bring on a slew of sniffles, sneezes, and sore throats. We want to ensure all of our patients know when to stop fighting them on their own and call in reinforcements

Starting with the basics

The most obvious cause of a sore throat is some sort of viral infection, such as the common cold or seasonal flu. In fact, sore throats make the symptom list of just about every run-of-the-mill sickness. 

There are a few other factors and irritants that can impact your throat, including:

  • Allergies

  • Bacteria

  • Dry air

  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke

  • Throat or mouth cancer

  • Virus or nasal drainage after a viral infection

Simply talking too much or being exposed to dust, chemicals, and pollution in the air can trigger a tender throat. 

Understanding exactly where your symptoms stem from is important in how you and our team treat it, so take careful note of when your sore throat started and any other accompanying symptoms. 

A note on bacterial vs. viral sore throats

There’s a difference between a sore throat from a viral infection and a bacterial infection. Viral infections and their symptoms usually resolve over a few days and may come with a cough, runny nose, or hoarse voice. 

Bacterial sore throats typically develop at the hands of group A strep bacteria, which causes streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat). Compared to a viral sore throat, strep throat is rarer but can be treated with antibiotics.

Strep throats typically develop suddenly and include:

  • Fever over 100℉

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Rash, known as scarlet fever

  • Red and swollen tonsils, often with white patches or pus

  • Small, red spots on the roof of the mouth

  • Swollen lymph nodes

Only a test in our office can tell the difference between a bacterial and viral sore throat and get you the help you need, so come see us at the first sign of a severe sore throat. 

Know when to go

As we said, most sore throats go away as your body deals with the instigator, and you can manage them easily with rest, lozenges, cough syrup, and other soothing therapies. But if your symptoms don’t improve within five days or you spike a fever of 101℉ or higher, it’s time to make an appointment with us. 

We can check if your severe sore throat is a warning sign of a more serious underlying issue that needs medication and expert treatment. 

Other problematic symptoms include:

  • Blood in saliva or phlegm

  • Dehydration

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Excessive drooling, especially in young children

  • Joint pain or swelling

  • Symptoms indicative of strep throat

Concerning symptoms of sore throat in children include changes in food preference, decreased appetite, touching or pointing to the neck, and tugging at ears. 

The bottom line

There’s no reason to wonder if your sore throat needs medical attention. Listen to your gut and see us even if you’re unsure if you should. It’s much better to bring us a mild sore throat than to miss the warning signs and end up with a serious problem. 

If you’d like Phylis Muthee, NP, ARNP, to look at your sore throat (or your child’s), call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment today. We offer both in-person and telehealth appointments for your convenience.

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