Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

Autumn is a wonderful time of year. The fall season provides a welcome break from the eight thousand degree summer temperatures, leaves are beginning to change color and the delicious aroma of homemade soups and stews are wafting from kitchens. While these are some of the more pleasant things associated with the change of seasons, there is also a downside: Cold and flu season. This is the time of year when people break out their hospital masks, walk around armed with a can of Lysol, and can be seen spraying down anything that moves in order to avoid catching the end-of-summer cold.

A sore throat is one of the most common precursors indicating that sickness is imminent. A sore throat can be caused by many things–from the virus responsible for such ailments as the common cold and mononucleosis to certain bacteria such as those responsible for streptococcus. However, there are other contaminants that may result in a sore throat that are unrelated to illness, such as smoking and various allergies.

Other illnesses that can either lead to, or begin with, a sore throat as a symptom include the following:

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an illness in which the tonsils, located in the back of the mouth, become infected by either a virus or certain bacteria. As a result, the tonsils become irritated, inflamed and painful. Sore throat is one of several symptoms of tonsillitis.

If a person experiences recurrent bouts of tonsillitis, surgical intervention in the form of a tonsillectomy may be prudent in order to minimize or completely alleviate episodes of infection. Tonsillectomy may also be advisable if tonsils are determined to be too large and affect breathing.

Strep Throat

Strep throat takes its name from the type of bacteria from which it originates. Strep throat can be very painful and often the pain can be so severe that it is ultimately what necessitates a visit to the doctor. Unlike a normal sore throat, if not treated, strep throat can result in kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is an illness that can result in a skin rash, inflammation of the joints and in more severe cases, can also damage the valves of the heart.

What are the Symptoms of Tonsillitis and Strep Throat?

The following is a list of the most common symptoms associated with tonsillitis and strep throat. This list is not exhaustive. If you experience any persistent and/or bothersome symptoms, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

– Sore throat
– Fever
– Headache
– White patches in the back of throat or on the tonsils
– Pain upon swallowing
– Red and/or swollen tonsils
– Swollen and/or painful glands in the jaw and throat
– Abdominal pain (often a symptom in children)
– Vomiting

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. A sore throat is a common symptom of this illness and may last for between one and four weeks. Other symptoms of mononucleosis include swollen glands in the neck, under the arms, fever, headache and fatigue.

Treatment

Antibiotics are the preferred method of treatment if the sore throat is caused by bacteria. It is very important to complete the course of antibiotic therapy you have been prescribed even if symptoms begin to subside, as doing so may result in relapse or the development of a secondary infection.

Antibiotics are not prescribed for virus-related illnesses. A viral infection must run its course, and symptoms typically improve within seven to 14 days.

Symptoms caused by mononucleosis can last for four weeks or more. If you have mono, your doctor will likely recommend getting plenty of rest. You can treat this illness symptomatically with acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. Children under the age of 18 should not be given aspirin, as it can lead to a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Treating the Pain

• Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen every four to six hours as needed for pain. Children under the age of 18 must not be given aspirin.
• Gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water).
• Suck on lozenges or hard candy.
• Suck on frozen popsicles.
• Run a humidifier in the bedroom.
• Drink plenty of fluids.

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