If we were to take a poll, chances are we would see that the colder weather we experience this time of year coincides with a higher number of sore throat complaints. Is it something in the air? Sort of. Initially, the dry air we are constantly engulfed in during the winter months may cause a bit of irritation in the soft tissues of the nasal passages and throat. Often, a sore throat is our first indication of an impending cold or other virus. Usually, a sore throat is a minor problem that we can trace back to one of several common causes.
Common Causes of Sore Throat
Some of the reasons you may develop a sore throat this winter include:
- You’ve caught a cold. Most colds and viruses clear up over the course of several days. Throat irritation can be soothed by drinking warm beverages like tea or water with honey and lemon. Throat lozenges and sprays and over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or Advil can also help control pain.
- Your allergies are acting up. Yes, allergies can flare up even when pollen counts are lower. Symptoms usually relate to dander, dust mites, and even drier weather. A humidifier and a good house-cleaning may help.
- A morning sore throat may indicate that you are sleeping with your mouth open and your respiratory tissues are dry and inflamed. Some people may benefit from taking an antihistamine before bed or placing a humidifier in their bedroom.
In any of the above scenarios, it’s possible that home remedies will soothe a sore throat and medical care will not be needed.
When to See a Doctor
A sore throat may indicate something more if the pain does not resolve within a week to 10 days. If pain persists or worsens within the first week, or a sore throat coincides with a fever, it is advisable to see your doctor. You should also schedule a thorough examination if your sore throat is accompanied by a lump in your neck or sensation of something stuck in your throat or if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing. A sore throat may be related to:
- A bacterial infection such as strep throat. This will require antibiotic treatment.
- Measles or chicken pox, not this is uncommon.
- Mononucleosis, a viral infection that requires prompt medical care.