The truth about your sore throat
Ever wake up from a good night’s rest with a sore throat? Fearing the worst, you might think you’re on the verge of getting a cold, only to find that the sore throat dissipates as the day goes on.
What’s the deal with the pesky ailment?
“Sore throats are one of the most common reasons patients come in for an appointment,” says Dr. Gaurav Chaturvedi, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “But the causes of a sore throat range from a viral or bacterial infection to allergies or lifestyle issues.”
The good news? A sore throat in the morning can be harmless. Some of the common causes include:
- Acid reflux
- Smoking exposure
- Certain medications
- Various types of infections – both bacterial and viral
“The main goal in evaluating a sore throat when a patient comes in for a visit is excluding serious or potentially life-threatening conditions and identifying treatable causes,” Dr. Chaturvedi explains. “We have to make sure there are no severe infectious symptoms present like stridor, muffled voice, fever and even a stiff neck. It’s also important to determine what kind of infection it is, if it is infectious, either viral or bacterial. Viral infections often have other symptoms like a runny nose, stuffy chest and itchy eyes. Bacterial infections like strep throat often have symptoms like a fever over 100.4 degrees.”
Looking for throat relief? The treatment depends on the cause.
Some treatment options for benign causes include:
- Drink more water if the issue is dehydration.
- Gargle with warm salt water.
- Avoid eating large meals before bed if the issue is acid reflux.
- Treat the problem. If the issue is allergies, treat the allergies.
- Try a throat spray or a cough drop.
In some instances, the issue will dissipate and contacting a physician is not necessary. In other cases, getting immediate care is crucial.
“While a sore throat in the morning can be harmless, there are many instances where seeking immediate medical attention is necessary,” says Dr. Chaturvedi. “If you have difficulty breathing, a skin rash, notice you are drooling because you cannot swallow, have swelling of the neck or tongue, a stiff neck or difficulty opening your month, contact your physician immediately.”
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is the manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.