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Understanding Sore Throat -- Symptoms

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What Are the Symptoms of a Sore Throat?

The classic symptoms of a sore throat include a burning sensation or "scratchiness" in the back of the throat; pain, especially when swallowing; and, perhaps, tenderness along the neck. These symptoms may be accompanied by:

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Call Your Doctor About a Sore Throat if:

  • You also have a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit without other cold symptoms; this may indicate a case of strep throat that needs treatment.
  • You also have flu-like symptoms that don't get better after a few days; this may indicate infectious mononucleosis.
  • Your child or adolescent suffers flu-like symptoms. Influenza is also more likely to lead to complications in pregnant women, people with obesity, or people with chronic illness such as COPD, asthma, or diabetes.
  • Any pain or hoarseness lasting longer than 2 weeks; this could be a sign of throat cancer or oral cancer.
  • Your sore throat persists for more than a week and is accompanied by postnasal drip, sneezing, and itchy eyes; this may be a sign of allergies that require medical attention.
  • Your sore throat is accompanied by drooling, or you experience difficulty swallowing or breathing; this may indicate an inflamed epiglottis, the structure that overhangs the opening to the larynx, or an abscess in the back of the throat; these two uncommon conditions require immediate medical attention.
  • Your sore throat is accompanied by pain that moves to the ear; this may be a sign of a more serious problem.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 11, 2015

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