Sore Throat in Adults

Sore Throat

Sore throats are very common and usually resolve without specific treatment.

Of the infections that cause sore throat, viral infections are most common. Less often, you may have a bacterial infection called strep throat.

Infections are not the only cause of sore throats. Allergies causing nasal congestion with mouth breathing and acid reflux are two non-infectious causes of sore throat.

Rarely, a sore throat can be a sign of a serious disorder that needs immediate medical attention. Certain causes of a sore throat could block off your airway and stop your breathing if left untreated.

Do you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath

  • such severe pain that you cannot swallow

  • drooling?

Yes, I am experiencing one or more of these symptoms.

No, I do not have these symptoms.

Most sore throats last only a few days and rarely continue beyond two weeks. Throat infections and nasal congestion from a cold or allergies are common reasons to have a sore throat.

A sore throat that persists for longer than two weeks usually means that a throat infection is unlikely.

Have you had a sore throat for more than two weeks?

Yes, my throat has been sore for more than two weeks.

No, my sore throat started more recently

You may have an infection. The symptoms of a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, usually start abruptly and quickly get worse over a day or two. Mononucleosis tends to come on more gradually over several days to a week.

Strep throat and mono almost always have additional symptoms, not just a sore throat.

Do you have one or more of the following symptoms with your sore throat

  • fever over 101F

  • painful or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck

  • white or light yellow spots on your tonsils

  • extremefatigue

  • significant headache?

Most likely, you have a mild viral infection or allergies. In the next few days, you may develop new symptoms that help make a diagnosis. In that case, you should try going through this tool again from the start. If you do not feel better by the end of two weeks, make an appointment to see your health care provider. While you may just have a viral infection or a mild case of allergies, you want to make sure you don't miss other more serious causes of a sore throat. Especially, if you are a smoker or have ever been a smoker, you want to make sure you do not have a tumor or throat cancer.

Yes, I have some of these symptoms.

No, I do not have these symptoms.

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