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How to Prevent a Sore Throat

The burning sensation that greets each swallow during a bout of tonsillitis or the dry scratchiness of too much coughing during the flu season are all scenarios associated with a sore throat. Fortunately, this painful attack is a common condition that often vanishes without treatment. However – most of the time, you are too busy battling an illness or other circumstance that has caused this occurrence. Nonetheless, learning how to prevent a sore throat can come in pretty handy.

How to Prevent a Sore Throat

What is a Sore Throat?

The painful inflammation that takes place in the pharynx (also known as ‘pharyngitis’) is typically referred to as a sore throat. It is not uncommon for this condition to indicate an underlying cause (such as a cold) or for an individual to suffer an infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis) and/or larynx (laryngitis) all at the same time. Viral infections cause around 90% of all sore throat cases, while other instances are the handiwork of bacterial infections and airborne irritants, such as pollutants or chemical contact [1]. In rare cases, oral thrush is to blame for a sore throat.

When it comes to doctor visits, sore throats are one of the most common reasons why people make appointments to see a physician. The majority of these visits aren’t always necessary. Sore throats have a tendency to disappear on their own in about a week. This condition is either considered an acute (lasts for three to seven days) or chronic issue, which lasts much longer.

Only a few cases of sore throats will need medical attention. Those diagnosed with a bacterial infection are given antibiotics. However, viruses oblivious to antibiotics cause most of the illnesses that bring about a sore throat. Getting rest, drinking tons of liquids, and following other self-care measures becomes the best course of action.

Causes of Sore Throats [2]

In order to better prevent a sore throat, understanding the common causes is a must. The majority of cases are attached to the same germs that bring about the common cold and flu – all caused by a virus. A smaller number of incidents are linked to bacterial infections.

When it comes to avoiding sore throats and the other symptoms that usually follow, you should know that viruses and bacteria enter the body through the mouth or nose. Perhaps you have breathed in contagious particles found in the air when someone has coughed or sneezed in your presence or you have experienced hand-to-hand contact with an infected person. Other times, you have unknowingly shared something with an infected individual, such as a towel, eating utensil, cup, telephone receiver, or even grabbed the same doorknob. If you touch your eyes or nose after this sort of contact – sickness usually follows.

Viral causes that bring about sore throats include the common cold, influenza, measles, chickenpox, croup, and mononucleosis. Bacterial causes of sore throats usually involve strep throat, mycoplasma, chlamydophila, diphtheria, tonsillitis, and the sexually transmitted disease of gonorrhea. Additional causes include:

a) Allergies:

When mold, pollen, and pet dander hit the air – allergic reactions awaken – causing red, itchy eyes, runny noses, and sore throats to emerge.

b) Pollution:

Throat irritation is very likely when you step into the great outdoors and come in contact with constant air pollution. Indoor air pollution (especially spaces riddled with tobacco smoke) places individuals at a greater risk for developing chronic sore throat.

c) Muscle Strain:

Did you know that muscle strains also take place in the throat? Just think of how your throat feels after cheering on your favorite sports teams or screaming at the kids. If you experience soreness, you have most likely strained your throat muscles.

d) Dry Conditions:

Dry indoor air conditions can cause a throat to feel scratchy, rough, and irritated. People typically experience these symptoms early in the morning upon first waking up or throughout the wintertime when rooms have a knack for overheating.

e) Chronic Nasal Congestion:

You can also cause dry conditions for yourself when you possess the habit of breathing through your mouth – a sign of chronic nasal congestion that can also lead to dry, sore throats.

f) GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease):

When stomach acid finds its way into the esophagus (also known as the food pipe), it can cause irritation in the throat. The effects are usually persistent and can last more than a couple of days.

g) HIV:

Chronic sore throat is not uncommon in HIV-positive patients, which is often a reaction to a secondary infection, such as cytomegalovirus (common in people with weakened immune systems) or oral thrush.

h) Tumors and Abscesses:

Individuals face a high risk of developing tumors in their throat, tongue, and voice box if they smoke tobacco or excessively drink alcohol. Some people experience little to no signs or symptoms, while others battle difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a sore throat.

Negative Effects and Risk Factors of Sore Throats

While the majority of bacterial infections that cause sore throats are not life threatening or dangerous, an individual still faces serious complications. If strep throat is the culprit – you are at risk for other infections like tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear infections, and even scarlet fever.

In rare cases, a patient develops kidney damage (glomerulonephritis) and rheumatic fever, which can cause complications for the heart, joints, skin, and muscles. If heart valves become scarred as a result – surgical repair is sometimes necessary.

Quinsy (peritonsillar abscess) is another possible complication of sore throats, which usually requires a hospital stay for surgical drainage or administration of antibiotics [3].

The viral infections that cause a sore throat are typically less threatening than bacterial causes. However, infectious mononucleosis can create an enlarged spleen, liver inflammation, anemia, nerve damage, and swollen tonsils. While anyone can develop a sore throat, there are a handful of factors that place individuals at a heightened risk for throat issues, including:

a) Age:

Youngsters and teens are most likely to suffer the bulk of sore throats, as children between the ages of 5 and 18 can develop as many as five sore throats per year. Adults typically face half as many. The bulk of adolescent sore throats are also caused by strep throat – one of the most common bacterial infections that children are quite prone to suffer.

b) Tobacco Smoke:

Those who smoke or who come in contact with secondhand smoke are exposed to hundreds of harmful chemicals that can cause irritation to the lining of the throat.

c) Allergies and Sinus Problems:

Your chances of suffering a sore throat are greater when you battle seasonal allergies or persistent allergic reactions concerning your environment, including dust, molds, or pets. The same risk is involved when you experience chronic or routine sinus infections, as drainage from the nose or sinuses can lead to complications of the throat.

d) Place of Employment: People who work within close quarters face an increased chance of coming in contact with the viral and bacterial infections that easily spread from one person to another. Common victims include daycare workers; teachers; employees working in large offices; prison guards; and residents of a military barrack.

e) Chemical Exposure:

Common household chemicals (such as cleaning agents) or the presence of burning fossil fuels can cause throat irritation when inhaled.

f) Poor Hygienic Habits:

Skimp on washing your hands and you will become more susceptible to the infections caused by bacteria and viruses.

g) Weakened Immune System:

Your body’s ability to resist infection plays an important role in fighting the common causes of a sore throat. Diabetics, AIDS patients, steroid users, and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may develop a sore throat due to lowered immunity. Even a person following a poor diet or not getting enough sleep will experience the same increased risk.

How to Prevent a Sore Throat

Completely avoiding a sore throat in your lifetime is impossible. The threat of coming in contact with the viruses, bacteria, and other circumstances that cause this condition are found around every corner. However, you can still take measures to reduce your chances of developing a sore throat through infection. A handful of precautionary suggestions are found below:

a) Avoid Close Contact:

Those who are suffering a sore throat will most likely harbor an infection that you don’t want to come in contact with.

b) Wash Hands:

If you frequently wash your hands and take your time – the chances of contracting a contagious infection will decrease. Don’t forget to wash the front and back of the hands using soap and warm water. Hand scrubbing should take about 10 to 15 seconds. To make this an easier process for young children – instruct them to wash their hands until they finish singing their ABC’s.

c) Avoid Sharing:

It may sound bad, but sharing food and eating utensils only increases the risk of developing a sore throat due to infection. Napkins, towels, and drinking glasses are also common objects of germ transmission.

d) Quit Smoking:

If you smoke cigarettes or any other tobacco products, you can prevent sore throats by kicking the habit. As a result, you will also help others who come in contact with your secondhand smoke.

e) Avoid Polluted Air:

Some people actually move out of cities with high pollution levels in an attempt to avoid health concerns, such as chronic sore throat, headaches, and other ailments. During the days that pollution counts are high, you can prevent a sore throat by staying inside.

f) Illness Aftercare:

To prevent another sore throat after an infection, make sure to toss away your current toothbrush, which can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. A good time to switch is after you are no longer considered contagious, but before you finish your antibiotics [4]. During an illness, remember to keep your toothbrush separate from other household members in order to lessen the spread of infection.

g) Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers:

When hand washing is not possible, those who carry along a hand sanitizer containing alcohol can rely on a decent substitute. The bacteria and viruses that cause disease and sore throats are destroyed when using this kind of product. Hand sanitizers that contain moisturizers come highly recommended, as they combat skin dryness and irritation.

h) Public Awareness:

Keep in mind that using public telephones or other objects (such as drinking fountains) can cause the spread of infections associated with sore throats.

i) Routine Cleaning:

Develop a healthy relationship with your sanitizing cleaner and regularly treat objects that receive a lot of traffic, such as computer keyboards and mouse, television remotes, telephones, and even refrigerator handles. When traveling, make it a practice to swipe clean the phones and remotes in your hotel room as an extra precaution.

j) Toss Away Used Tissues:

After coughing or sneezing into a tissue, immediately toss it away. Do not place it close to you in a wastebasket overflowing with germs or store it in your pocket for later disposal.

k) Humidifier:

Purchase a humidifier and turn it on during days that the air in your home is dry.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharyngitis
[2] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sore-throat/DS00526/DSECTION=3
[3] http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2032700
[4] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000639.htm

2 Responses to “How to Prevent a Sore Throat”

  1. Austin
    January 23, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    Um… It says children ages 5 to 18 suffer 5 sore throats at the max. Yeah, it is a interesting article, but suriously I wake up every morning with a very bad sore throat. Is it me or do some of you have the same issue.

    P.S. -I am 11

  2. viccc
    June 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    This morning my friend thought she was going to pass out because of the heat, but later said she might have strep. I have a small sore throat, and i get anxiety when I have to get a strep test. is there any way to prevent it after exposure? :(

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