You know what it feels like. An awful pain or irritation of your throat. It usually feels even worse when you swallow. Why you? Why now? Read on to learn more about your sore throat, what it may mean for you, how to prevent it from happening again, and what to do if you have one.
Everyone gets an irritation to the throat. It's one of the most common symptoms of illness. It's not a big deal, right? Well, it can be. It's important to know exactly what you're dealing with when you get it. Even if it feels the exact same as the last time, it may serve you well to be cautious and take it seriously. Talk to a doctor, see what they say. We'll tell you how to go about this and more.
When should I see a doctor?
If you feel any pain or irritation in your throat and have any of the following problems, you can no longer ask yourself "should I see a doctor?" You need to see a doctor as soon as you can. To speak to one right now, contact a doctor online by clicking here. For tips that'll help you make the most of your consultation, see this advice from Dr. Phillips.
- Difficulty breathing
- A sore throat that lasts longer than one week
- You frequently get pain in your throat
- Fever higher than 38.3 degrees Celsius
- Blood in saliva or phlegm
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump in your neck
- Ear pain
- Joint pain
- Crippling headache
The best treatment plan for dealing with throat irritation is to try and not get them in the first place! Since most throats irritation are viral or bacterial, the key is to attempt to avoid and combat the germs that cause them. Your best bet is to constantly be practicing good hygiene. Here are a few tips and tricks that you should share with people in your life, for your sake and theirs.
It's basically all about keeping things clean and reducing the opportunity for contact with common sources of germs:
- WASH YOUR HANDS! I capitalize this because it can't be said enough. This is far and away the easiest and most effective thing you can do to keep yourself healthy. Make sure you use anti-bacterial soap to wash your hands frequently throughout the day, particularly before you eat, after you use the toilet, and using any heavily trafficked public facility or infrastructure.
- Avoid sick people. This one should go without saying. But of course the caring person that you are tends to want to not treat sick people as pariahs. This is especially the case when a loved one is sick. You want to be there for them and care for them. Unfortunately parents can't really do much about this, since children need adults to look after them. Regardless, do your best to minimize exposure to sick people when you can.
- Be a skeptical sharer. Obviously this goes against how most people want to be with their friends and family... I'm not saying don't share. The team at RingMD loves sharing! Just be careful about how you share. For example, a lot of germs are in our mouths and on our hands. So think about how you can defend against this. When it comes to sharing food and drink, something that is essential to so many cultures, make sure use separate utensils or straws. With regard to using public amenities like phones, water fountains, or even TVs and computers, make sure to clean them of germs and bacteria before using them. Something as simple as wiping them down or using hand sanitizer after use should do the trick!
Viruses that cause the common cold and flu (influenza) are also responsible for the occurrence of most throat irritations. Less often, but still common, bacterial infections may cause pain in your throat. The most common bacterial culprit is streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus, which causes strep throat.
Viral illnesses primarily responsible for sore throats:
- Common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Mononucleosis (mono)
- Croup — childhood illness distinguished by a pronounced barking cough
Other causes of a throat infection include:
- Muscle strain. You can hurt muscles in your throat by yelling, such as at a loud sporting event or concert. This can also occur from simply talking loudly or talking for long periods without a break.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a digestive system disorder in which stomach acids or other contents of the stomach get caught in your esophagus. Heartburn, hoarseness, regurgitation of stomach contents and the sensation of a lump in your throat can also be symptomatic of GERD.
- Allergies. Allergies to almost anything, but especially pet dander, molds, dust and pollen can cause a sore throat. The problem may be complicated by postnasal drip, which can irritate the throat. You should talk to a licensed doctor about potential allergies.
- Other Environmental Irritants. Outdoor air pollution can cause ongoing throat irritation. Think of the trans-boundary haze that those of us in Singapore are so familiar with... Indoor pollution, such as second hand smoke or chemicals, can also cause a sore throat, or even a rash.
Treatment: self-care and home remedies
In most scenarios a throat irritation is a symptom of an acute condition. This means that you're best bet is to consult a doctor to confirm that it's not something more serious, and so they can provide you with a medical certificate to excuse you from work or school: to get the time you need to rest and recover.
When you are at home resting, there a few things you can do to better facilitate the healing process:
- Gargle with saltwater.
- Consider sucking on lozenges. They can help to soothe your throat pain in addition to the warm liquids listed below. However, don't give them to young children because they could choke.
- Humidify the air. Use a cool-air humidifier to eliminate dry air that may further irritate a throat or sit for several minutes in a steamy bathroom. (Obviously this isn't a problem in Singapore... But air conditioning can also have a similar effect. So make sure you're not in aircon all day.)
- Rest your voice.
- Stay hydrated. This means avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Drink water to keep the throat moist. Warm liquids like chicken broth, caffeine-free tea or warm water with honey are also good choices to soothe the throat.
If you are someone who has been suffering from a persistent and painful throat irritation, you should consult a doctor. If you are in too much pain or discomfort to leave your home, or don't have time to leave the office, you can speak to a doctor online on RingMD from wherever you are (just click the button below). Our licensed doctors can provide you with medical advice, and depending on where you are, they may also be able to write you a medical certificate and online prescription, if appropriate. We're here to help.
Speak with a doctor online on RingMD. Why leave home to find a doctor if you don't have to? Can you have a doctor appointment online? Yes, consult a doctor online, right now! When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed Medical Certificate (MC) if you need one for work or school reasons. Don't wait! See a doctor online, wherever you are.
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