A sore throat is one of the most common conditions suffered by both adults and children. It is characterized by pain, irritation or scratchiness of the throat. The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus usually resolves on its own with at-home care. A bacterial infection, a less common cause of sore throat, requires additional treatment with antibiotic drugs. The expertise of an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be required when the sore throat recurs or when it doesn’t clear up after initial treatment.

Causes

Sore throat is a common symptom of other conditions. Causes of sore throat can include:

  • Tonsillitis: A chronic or recurring problem with sore throat can be caused by infection of the tonsils.
  • Chronic acid reflux from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Postnasal drip
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia, an inflammation of the ninth cranial nerve supplying the back of the throat
  • Tumors
  • Viral infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Allergies
  • Dryness such as that from dry, indoor air in winter
  • Irritants such as outdoor air pollution, alcohol, and chewing tobacco

Treatment

A sore throat caused by a viral infection, the most common cause, usually lasts five to seven days and doesn’t require medical treatment. The expertise of an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be required when the sore throat recurs or when it doesn’t clear up after initial treatment.