Why is my throat so sore?

Why is my throat so sore?

Why is my throat so sore?

There are lots of different things that can cause a sore throat. While there are treatments available to alleviate the pain, such as throat sprays, it is important to find the cause if the pain doesn’t go away after a few days. This is because a sore throat can be a symptom of a larger problem or virus, such as tonsillitis or glandular fever[1]. Simply masking the pain of a sore throat is not going to get rid of the overall problem. This is why finding a cause is so important.

What can cause a sore throat?

Below, you can find some of the most common causes of a sore throat.

Infections can be either bacterial or viral. Bacterial infections are caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, whereas viral infections are caused by a virus. These will need to be treated in different ways depending on the type of infection that you might have. One of the most common bacterial infections that may result in a painful throat is strep[1]. Its proper name is Streptococcus pyogenes because it is caused by Streptococcus bacteria.

This is the same bacteria that can cause tonsillitis too[2]. This infection is most common in children, and there’s a four in ten chance that a sore throat in a child is caused by strep. Other symptoms of strep throat include a fever that comes on quickly, white patches at the back of the throat, a headache and swollen glands.

There are lots of viral infections that could be the cause of your sore throat. These include the common cold, flu, mononucleosis, measles, chickenpox, glandular fever and mumps[3]. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 90 per cent of sore throats are caused by a virus. It’s unlikely that your sore throat is caused by measles or mumps if you had your measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine as a child.

It’s much more likely that your sore throat is due to a cold or the flu. Tonsillitis is a relatively well known condition that can cause throat pain, as well as coughing, a high temperature and a hoarse voice[2]. This can be caused by either a virus or bacteria and it’s important to determine which one so that it can be treated. You should seek advice from a GP if you believe you have tonsillitis.

Allergies and other irritants

There are lots of irritants in the air that could be the cause of your sore throat, including smoke, mould and chemicals (such as those found in some cleaning products). And it’s not just about what’s around you, but what you’re eating and drinking too. Substances like alcohol and spicy food can make a sore throat worse, so these should be avoided if you’re regularly experiencing pain.

Allergies can also bring on a sore throat and the most common ones are pollen, grass, pet hair and dust[4]. Allergies can cause extra mucus to build up in the back of your nose and throat. When this happens, it’s referred to as postnasal drip. Symptoms of this condition include a sore or tickly throat, feeling sick, frequently clearing the throat and a cough that gets noticeable worse at night.

Can hay fever cause a sore throat?

Hay fever is generally an allergy to pollen, however it can also be brought on by dust mites, and affects more than 10 million people in the UK. It can affect different people during different times of the year depending on the type of pollen you’re allergic to. For instance, if you’re allergic to tree pollen, you’ll notice symptoms in early spring, however if it’s grass pollen that you’re allergic to, symptoms will come on around late spring and summer. Hay fever can cause your body to produce excess mucus as a way of protecting you from the pollen, and the result of this may be a sore throat[5].

Other causes

Other causes of sore throats include muscle strain (if you’ve had to talk loudly for a prolonged period of time), injuries to the area, and even HIV, though this is rare[1].

Can acid reflux cause a sore throat?

Acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s a condition where the stomach acid can come out of the stomach and start to climb up the oesophagus. When this happens, it can cause a burning sensation and you may experience heartburn as well as a sore throat. The condition tends to get worse at night when you’re lying down, and it may help to prop the head end of your bed up in order to keep your head slightly elevated[6].

Can wisdom teeth cause a sore throat?

Wisdom teeth are something most adults get between the ages of 17 and 30. Some people may have all four wisdom teeth come through and others may get none. Usually, the teeth can grow easily so long as there’s enough space for them. However, wisdom teeth can cause complications if they aren’t able to grow correctly. The gum may be more prone to infections and abscesses and this is when your wisdom teeth can cause a sore throat[7]. If the area becomes infected, it can cause inflammation of the surrounding area and your throat may become painful. You should see a dentist if your wisdom teeth are causing problems.

Can anxiety or stress cause a sore throat?

Although it’s rare, anxiety and stress can sometimes cause a sore throat. This is because when we’re stressed, our heart rate and blood pressure can both increase, causing you to take shallower and faster breaths. This can either dry your throat up or cause the muscles to tighten up in that area[8]. You may find that your sore throat goes away when you’re feeling a bit calmer. If you feel like your anxiety is becoming too much, you should seek advice from a doctor.


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tonsillitis/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/glandular-fever/

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/

[5] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/

[6] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/

[7] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/wisdom-tooth-removal/

[8] https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/symptoms/