Why am I having a sore throat?

When we talk about having a sore throat, we’re describing the pain or irritation that can affect one part or all parts of your throat lining. Your throat (pharynx) is the tube at the back of your mouth that connects your nasal passages (sinuses) to the top of your windpipe (trachea) and food pipe (oesophagus), and also incorporates the voice box (larynx) and tonsils.

The pain or discomfort you feel with a sore throat is caused by inflammation of one or all of these parts of your throat. Most sore throats are caused by a viral infection, but some can also result from bacterial infections such as Strep throat. These infections cause inflammation in your throat – leading to pain, redness, swelling, and for more severe infections, pus. Other factors that can lead to throat pain or irritation include allergies, smoke or pollution in the air, and even changes in the weather or season that expose your mouth and throat to cold or dry air.


How do sore throats feel?

Sore throats are often described by how they feel. And each sore throat can feel different depending on what’s causing the inflammation. Let’s review a few of the main types of sore throat.

Dry or tickly sore throat

Some sore throats feel like a dry, tickly, scratchy, or itchy irritation, with only mild pain or discomfort. This type of sore throat often signals the start of an infection such as a cold or the flu, and is also the kind typically associated with allergies, poor air quality, or changes in the weather or season.

Painful sore throat 

As an infection progresses, the inflammation sets in and your throat or mouth may feel more swollen with a burning sensation, making swallowing and talking more difficult and even painful.

Sharp and stabbing sore throat

Some infections can lead to a sore throat with sharp and stabbing pain that feels like a razor blade down your throat, often in areas of your throat that are difficult to reach. These very painful sore throats are often associated with more severe infections, leading to difficulties in swallowing.


Not all sore throats feel the same

A sore throat can also feel different depending on what part of your throat or mouth is inflamed and during the different stages of infection. It might hurt all through your mouth and throat, or only at the back of your throat. Sometimes you might experience pain in the roof of your mouth, on the back of your tongue or on your tonsils (the fleshy bits on the side of your throat at the back).


Sore throats and Omicron

A sore throat can occur with COVID-19 infection, and has been identified as a common early symptom of infection with the new Omicron variant. While infections with Omicron may result in only mild symptoms, it is important to follow the latest guidelines on testing and isolating. Also remember to protect yourself by wearing masks in public places, washing and sanitizing your hands regularly, and practising social distancing. For more information, visit https://www.moh.gov.sg/


When to see a doctor or talk to a pharmacist

Most sore throats will go away on their own – in about 3 days for around 40% of people, and within a week for most people. In the meantime, DIFFLAM has a range of lozenges, sprays, and gargles to help relieve your sore throat symptoms. Talk to your pharmacist to find out which sore throat medication is right for you and your symptoms.

You should see your doctor if your throat pain doesn’t go away or it gets worse after a few days, or if you experience any of the following:

  • Any new symptoms
  • Dehydration
  • Severe throat or neck pain or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Muffled or hoarse voice

References
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