Sussex ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust
Worthing and Southlands Hospital

Sore Throats

What causes sore throats?

Sore throats are very common and are caused by irritation and swelling of the tissues in the back of the nose and mouth and down towards the voice box. It can be a generalised irritation (pharyngitis) or specifically affecting the tonsils (tonsillitis) it is usually causes by infection.

Over half of all acute pharyngitis and tonsillitis are caused by viruses. Bacterial infections are less common and usually due to Streptoccus. Fungal infections are much less comon.

How to treat sore throats?

As most sore throats are caused by viral infections, antibiotics will usually not affect the speed of recovery.
Drinking plenty of water, avoiding smoking and alcohol and taking regular pain relief (ibuprofen, paracetamol) will help with the pain but will not increase the speed or recovery.
If the sore throat is worsening, difficulty in swallowing or has not improved after 3 days it is advisable to see your GP as antibiotics may help.

Complications of sore throats

Very rarely a bacterial pharyngitis or tonsillitis may spread to surrounding tissues causing a abscess around the throat, such as a quinsy, this makes someone very unwell and they often have a very high temperature unable to open their mouth fully, difficulty talking, eating and drinking.

Persistent sore throats

If you have a sore throat that persists for more than several weeks you should see your doctor as other causes could be causing the long term irritation of your throat.