Although we’re more susceptible in the winter months, an irritating sore throat can strike at any time of year. Follow these steps to minimise your chances of getting a sore throat.

What are the causes of a sore throat?

The usual cause of a sore throat is a virus or bacterium. Throat irritation from smoking, dry heat, postnasal drip (where a runny nose drips down the back of your throat, especially when you are asleep), or an allergic reaction can also cause soreness. 

One of the more unusual causes of a sore throat is acid reflux. If strong stomach acids rise back up into your throat while you're asleep, you'll wake up with what feels just like a sore throat.

To prevent this from happening, try raising the bedhead on wooden blocks or put a couple of phone books under the top feet of the bed. With the bed tilted a little higher above the horizontal, reflux will flow downhill during the night—away from your throat and towards your stomach.
 

What are the symptoms of a sore throat?

A sore throat burns, feels scratchy and may cause pain that makes it hard to talk or swallow. It may also look red and spotted with white or yellow dots. 

Soreness brought on by viruses (such as those causing colds or flu) usually develops gradually, with little or no fever. But a bacterial infection such as strep throat (from streptococcus) often comes on suddenly, accompanied by swollen glands and fever.

 

Preventing a sore throat:

  • During the cold-and-flu season, wash your hands often and make an effort to keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth. You'll be less likely to catch a cold or flu.
  • Run a cool-mist vaporiser or humidifier in your bedroom. Adding moisture to the air will help keep it from drying out and prevent the lining of your throat from becoming too dry.
  • If you don't have a humidifier, place a bowl of water on your radiator each night. It may not look very elegant but it will work as well as any shop-bought item.
  • If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smoke is extremely irritating to the lining of the throat.
  • Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. It's a natural way to humidify the air you breathe.
  • If you're plagued with a sore throat that seems to come back time and time again, buy a new toothbrush. Bacteria collect on the bristles, and if you injure your gums as you brush, they can enter your system and re-infect you.
  • Bolster your immune system during the cold and flu season with vitamins, herbs, and good nutrition. The obvious supplement candidates are vitamins C and E, the minerals zinc and magnesium and immune-boosting herbs such as goldenseal and astragalus. Also cook or supplement with garlic, ginger, shiitake mushrooms and reishi mushrooms, all of which have immune-boosting properties.

 

Persistently sore throat

You can usually take care of a sore throat yourself, and it should clear up on its own within a day or 2.

However, you should see a doctor if the pain lasts more than a week, if the soreness is accompanied by a fever of 38ºC or higher for more than 3 days, or if you also have an earache.

Also see your doctor if you find it difficult to swallow saliva or open your mouth, if your throat is hoarse for 3 weeks or more, or if your phlegm has streaks of blood in it.

If you've got a sore throat you can't seem to shake, try our soothing treatments and remedies for relief.

 

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