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Not only are sore throats painful, but they also are one of the top reasons for doctor visits and sick days.
It starts as a persistent tickle in the back of your throat before the sensation progresses into a prickly sensation every time you swallow. The trick to treating a sore throat is knowing when it’s time to make the transition from at-home therapy to seeing the doctor.
“A sore throat can be caused by any number of factors, including a common cold, low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling, or nasal drainage,” says Brett M. Scotch, DO, an osteopathic physician from Wesley Chapel, Florida.
There are other less common causes for a sore throat, which can include strep throat, mononucleosis (otherwise known as “mono”) or tonsillitis.
When it come to treating a sore throat, you can try:
In most cases, your sore throat will improve with at-home treatment. However, it’s time to see your doctor if a severe sore throat and a fever over 101 degrees lasts longer than one to two days; you have difficulty sleeping because your throat is blocked by swollen tonsils or adenoids; or a red rash appears.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it could mean that you have a bacterial infection. In that case, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat your infection.
“For adults who have repeated bacterial throat infections within a relatively short period of time, a physician may recommend a tonsillectomy,” says Dr. Scotch.
Your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy (the surgical removal of the tonsils) if:
“However, a tonsillectomy should always be the last resort for treating sore throats,” warns Dr. Scotch. “The best treatment for a sore throat is prevention.”
You can prevent a sore throat by replacing your toothbrush every month and tossing an old toothbrush once you’ve recovered from a sore throat to prevent re-infection. You should also refrain from smoking, which can be abrasive to the throat.
“Be sure to wash your hands often, eat right and get plenty of sleep,” advises Dr. Scotch.