A throat infection, or pharyngitis in medical terms, is characterised by an abnormal inflammation of the throat tissues that usually causes pain or itchiness when you swallow food or water. It can range from being mild to severe, depending on the duration of the infection, your age and other factors.
Although throat infections can be extremely uncomfortable, they can be easily treated by home remedies or taking over-the-counter medications. Before we have an in-depth discussion on the diagnosis and treatment, let’s visit the causes and symptoms of throat infections.
What Causes Throat Infections?
The throat performs dual functions: carrying air to your larynx and food to your oesophagus. Sometimes bacteria and viruses enter through the mouth or nose. You may experience symptoms like a runny nose, chills, body ache, headache, cough and a hoarse voice.
Ever wondered what causes the glands in the neck to swell or areas of pus to form on your tonsils? Read on to find out the major factors contributing to throat infections.
- Viral Infections:
Viral throat infections are very commonplace. The viruses that cause throat infections include the common cold virus, influenza virus, chickenpox virus, and mononucleosis virus. The latter refers to an infection which is transmitted through saliva.
- Bacterial Infections:
Streptococcus A is largely responsible for a variety of bacterial infections that affect your throat. A quick strep test can determine whether you have strep/inflamed throat or not. Apart from this, the transmission of bacteria through diseases like tonsillitis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia can also cause throat infections.
- Dry Air:
If your home is centrally heated, chances are you may wake up one wintery day with a scratchy throat. Dry air is one of the lesser known causes of throat infections. Breathing cold air through your mouth can also give you a sore throat.
The air outside is not as clean as you imagine it to be. It contains pollutants that can cause severe throat infections. Tobacco smoke, chemicals in pollutants, alcohol, and ingredients in spicy food are known to start a chain reaction.
- Muscle Strain:
You can strain your vocal cords by talking loudly, singing for long periods without any rest in between, or yelling. Most sport coordinators happen to complain of throat infections. It is an occupational hazard.
Allergies to grass, pollen, dust, moulds, and animal hair can cause throat infections accompanied by watery eyes and nasal congestion. Post-nasal drip, which is excess mucus dripping down the throat, can also give you a sore throat.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:
This is a condition in which acid from the stomach backs up into the oesophagus, more commonly known as food pipe. This causes heartburn and acid reflux; the latter is a disorder in which you experience a burning sensation in your throat.
In rare cases, cancerous tumours of the throat, larynx, and tongue can cause throat infections. However, in such cases, the throat infection persists for weeks, sometimes even months. A cancer specialist will be able to diagnose cancer if symptoms show up.
Treatment and Prevention
Although everybody is prone to throat infections, children, especially teenagers, are the most susceptible. They are more likely to catch strep cold than adults. However, it is possible to prevent throat aches by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands frequently and avoiding contact with patients suffering from throat infections. You can also suck on lozenges to ease the pain.
In case the pain persists, it is best to consult an ENT specialist for a better diagnosis of your condition. Consulting a doctor will help you understand the cause of your throat infection and the medications he prescribes will thereby improve your overall well-being.
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