Get to the Bottom of Your Sore Throat
A scratchy throat can be more than just an annoyance. Experts offer tips for assessing your sore throat “threat level.”
Sore Throat Threat Level: Always "Guarded" continued...
"Wait a day, drink plenty of fluids, take pain
medication if you'd like," Sataloff tells WebMD.
"You might as well try vitamin C. The data are controversial, but vitamin C
doesn't do any harm, and there's some suggestion that vitamin C and
antioxidants may have some efficacy. These are not unreasonable things to do
when helping your body fight off an infection, and that's what it has to do
since we don't treat viral infections with antibiotics."
Some people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
may experience hoarseness with a sore throat, but this will probably be
accompanied by other symptoms, such as heartburn or the sour reflux of stomach
(Do you have a favorite sore
throat remedy? Tell us about it on the Health Cafe message board.)
When Sore Throat Hits "High" Threat
If your sore throat is accompanied by an achy feeling all over and you have
a fever, you should elevate your threat level to "high." You might want
to go to the doctor for a throat culture to see if you have a strep infection,
especially if you have been around children, who frequently harbor strep
"A strep infection can be dangerous for adults or kids," Sataloff
says. "The greatest dangers are local inflammation and rapid spread to the
throat and adjacent structures like the tonsils and lymph tissues. They can
swell and obstruct the airway, and the bacteria can get into the bloodstream
and cause infections elsewhere, such as the heart valves."
Inflammation is what makes a sore throat sore, and the greater the
inflammation, the greater the danger, Sataloff explains.
"Extreme" Sore Throat Threat: Know the Symptoms
Raise your threat level to "extreme" if you are having difficulty
swallowing or breathing, or if you develop a high fever with painful swelling
of your lymph nodes. That could indicate tonsillitis, mononucleosis, or some other potentially
dangerous infection. These symptoms can also signal strep
"A simple sore throat can cause lots of problems," Sataloff
Lemierre's syndrome, for example, is a rare disorder that begins with a
fever and sore throat. Soon blood clots form in the jugular vein, and when
these infected clots break away, they carry the infection to other parts of the
The good news is that prompt treatment can forestall almost all the serious
consequences of sore throat.
"We don't see them very often because people get treated," Sataloff
says of the life-threatening complications of sore throat. "And if they
don't get treated and the sore throat gets worse, then they get