Skip to main content

A sore throat is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It can often make it painful to swallow.

Viral infections are the most common cause of sore throats. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. It often begins at the start of a cold. In many cases, it’s the first sign that you are getting sick. When the nose or sinuses become infected, drainage can run down the back of the throat and irritate it, especially at night. Or, the throat itself can be infected.

Infections that often begin with a sore throat include:
  • Glandular fever (Epstein-Barr virus).
  • Flu.
  • Tonsillitis – an infection of the tonsils at the back of the mouth. Symptoms are similar to a sore throat, but may be more severe e.g high fever. ‘Strep throat’ is so named because the bacteria known as streptococcus can be a possible cause of infection in cases of tonsillitis.
  • Croup – a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough.
Causes of sore throat that are not a result of infection include:
  • Breathing through the mouth.
  • Allergies such as Hayfever.
  • Pollution and cigarette smoke.
  • Muscle strain from yelling.
  • Acid reflux.
  • Tumours (smoking or alcohol abuse increases the risk of tumours of the throat, tongue and voice box. In some people these tumours cause few, if any, signs and symptoms. In others, they can lead to hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and Sore throat).
Signs and symptoms of a sore throat in kids and babies

Soreness in the throat may be the only symptom so it may be hard to recognise in small children and babies who can not communicate. Other ways to tell if a small child or baby has a sore throat is if they have a hoarse voice, mild cough, fever, headache, appear to feel sick or irritable, are tired and the glands in their neck are swollen.

It may be painful for small children and babies to swallow and they may become irritated by eating or drinking which is another sign of a sore throat in minors. The soreness typically worsens over two to three days and then gradually improves.