What Causes A Sore Throat?

Sore throats can be caused by a number of factors, including viral infections, bacterial infections, allergic reactions and vocal strain.

Many people see a sore throat as a harbinger of a more serious condition to come.A tickle in the throat is often the first sign of a head cold or a

serious infection.Others may experience a sore throat immediately after shouting at a sporting event or delivering speeches or singing.Relief from a sore throat may involve anesthetic sprays, medicated lozenges or vocal rest.

But what actually causes the majority of sore throats?There are actually several separate but equally troublesome factors which can lead to a sore throat:

1. Viral infections and side effects.The first symptoms of a viral infection may go unnoticed for hours or even days, but the throat may be the first area to be affected. As viruses in the nasal passages destroy cells, the waste material drains into the throat through a tube in the sinuses.This drainage can be very irritating to tissue, so the throat becomes red and sore.The result is the familiar 'tickle in the throat' sensation just before a cold becomes apparent.The rhinoviruses continue to create infected waste and the throat continues to suffer the effects.Once the cold has run its course, the drainage decreases and the throat has time to heal.Over-the-counter cold remedies often contain anesthetics to deaden the throat pain or lubricants to prevent further irritation.

2. Bacterial infection.Some people who experience a sore throat will assume the cause is viral and treat the symptoms of a viral cold.In reality, some sore throats are caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus, also know as 'staph'.Staph infections can be contagious, making children especially vulnerable.Bacteria enter the mouth area, where they find a perfect medium for growth in the throat area.It's moist, full of nutrients and protected from the elements.Once staph bacteria become active, they continue to multiply and soon the entire throat is coated. Because these bacteria are feeding directly on tissue, the throat will become extremely sore.The only cure is a supply of antibiotics which will essentially poison the well for the bacteria. Throat tissue will become toxic to the staph bacteria, causing the individual cells to die.

3. Vocal strain.The vocal cords are complicated pieces of machinery, and like any other machine they can fail through overuse.Trained singers and actors learn how to project their voices without significant damage, but most of us are not trained in that area.Consequently, we scream at sporting events, shout in loud crowds, sing along with rock music and spend too much time in conversations.The result is vocal strain, which is also a cause of some sore throats.The vocal cords are muscles, so the strain is similar to a pulled bicep or hamstring. The muscle tissue itself has been torn, so the only treatment would be complete rest.Sore throats caused by vocal strain can be painful for a few days until the vocal cords have had some time to recover.Throat lozenges can keep the area lubricated for easier speaking, but nothing replaces total or near-total silence.

4. Acid Reflux.Some sore throats are caused by stomach acids coming back up through the esophagus.The entire length of the esophagus has been chemically burned, but the throat contains far more nerve endings.The act of vomiting can also cause chemical burns to the throat area.It may take several days for enough healthy tissue to replace the damaged tissue.Drinking milk immediately after a nausea event may help to coat and sooth the inflammation.Milky digestive medications such as Mylanta or Milk of Magnesia might also neutralize some of the throat damage caused by stomach acids.

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