Understanding Sore Throat -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on April 27, 2023
2 min read

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:

  • You also have a fever higher than 101 degrees F without other cold symptoms. This could mean you have strep throat. It’s a bacterial infection that needs to get treated.
  • You also have flu-like symptoms that don't get better after a few days. This could be infectious mononucleosis or other viral infections.
  • Your child or teen has flu-like symptoms. Influenza can also lead to problems if you’re pregnant, extremely obese, or have an ongoing illness such as COPD, asthma, or diabetes. Extreme obesity with a BMI of 40 or greater is a risk factor for flu complications.
  • 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 lingers for more than a week and you also have postnasal drip, sneezing, and itchy eyes. You might have allergies.
  • 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.