Understanding Sore Throat -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on April 21, 2021

The classic symptoms include a burning feeling or "scratchiness" in the back of your throat, pain (especially when you swallow), and perhaps tenderness along your neck.

You may also have:

When to Call the Doctor

  • You also have flu-like symptoms that don't get better after a few days. This could be infectious mononucleosis or other viral infections.
  • You've got any pain or hoarseness that lasts longer than 2 weeks. There's a chance that this could be a warning sign of throat cancer or oral cancer if you have other risk factors for cancer such as smoking.
  • Your sore throat comes with drooling, or you have trouble swallowing or breathing. This might mean your epiglottis, the structure that overhangs the opening to your throat, is inflamed. You could also have an abscess in the back of your throat. You need to get treated ASAP for these two rare conditions.
  • You have a sore throat and pain that moves to your ear. This may be a sign of an ear infection or a more serious problem.

Show Sources


American Academy of Family Physicians.

CDC: "People at High Risk of Developing Serious Flu–Related Complications."

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