Causes of a Sore Throat

Many things can cause a sore throat:

  • Viral infections, including the common cold, flu, mononucleosis, measles, chicken pox, and croup
  • Bacterial infections, including strep throat
  • Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen, often aggravated by postnasal drip, which can irritate the throat
  • Dry indoor air, especially in heated buildings during the winter, can make your throat feel scratchy, particularly when you first wake up. Breathing through your mouth because of a stuffy nose can cause a dry, sore throat.
  • Airborne irritants such as tobacco smoke or chemicals, or outdoor air pollution can cause ongoing throat irritation
  • Muscle strain from yelling at a game, trying to talk to someone in a noisy environment, or talking for long periods without rest
  • Infection of the voice box (laryngitis)
  • Inflamed tonsils (tonsillitis)
  • Injury to the back of the throat, such as a scratch or puncture wound

Most sore throats are caused by common cold and flu viruses and will clear up by themselves in 5 to 7 days.

You can often determine the cause of a sore throat by the other symptoms that accompany it, such as a runny nose or hay fever. Have you recently turned on the heat in your home, or attended a noisy sporting event?

A persistent or recurring sore throat could be a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as gastrointestinal reflux disorder (GERD) or a bacterial infection


See a doctor for sore throat if:

  • The pain or discomfort in your throat is extreme.
  • The sore throat does not begin to get better after 2 or 3 days.
  • You have a high fever.
  • You can see pus or discolored patches on the throat or tonsils.
  • You have new or worse trouble swallowing.
  • Your sore throat gets much worse on one side.


Take your child to a doctor for sore throat if any of the following occurs:

  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • A sore throat that does not clear up after 2 or 3 days
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High fever
  • Listlessness
  • Extreme difficulty swallowing, resulting in excessive drooling
  • Headache or stomach ache

We at  Urgent Family Care in Knoxville and Sevierville are here to help.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that usually does not occur with congestion, a cough, or other cold symptoms. Lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen and the throat is extremely sore. A doctor will take a throat swab to determine whether the sore throat is caused by strep and can be treated with antibiotics. If the doctor prescribes antibiotics for strep throat, it is important to take the full course, even if the symptoms disappear.


Home Care for Sore Throat

If you have a sore throat, try the following home remedies for relief:

  • Rest
  • Fluids. Drink water frequently to moisten the throat and prevent dehydration. If a child does not want to drink, try popsicles or crushed ice.
  • Warm drinks such as herbal teas, water with honey and lemon, or broth
  • Ice cream and other soft, cold foods
  • Saltwater gargle. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Gargle and spit it out.
  • Humidify the air. Use a humidifier to moisten dry air, or run the shower and sit in the steamy bathroom for a few minutes.
  • Use throat lozenges or herbal candies.
  • Take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to relieve pain and fever. Talk to a doctor before giving aspiring to children or teenagers.
  • If the sore throat seems to be caused by irritants in the air, take steps to avoid them. Use a surgical mask when exposed to dust, stay indoors if pollution levels are high, and remove irritants from the home.

Treatment for sore throat is available at Urgent Family Care in Knoxville and Sevierville. No appointment is necessary. If you are worried about your sore throat, see a doctor right away.

For more information about sore throat:


DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. It is information that is generally available. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.