Most sore throats run their course after just a few days, many times needing nothing more than over the counter throat lozenges or decongestants. But some sore throats need to be checked out by a doctor. Sometimes it is hard to know if the symptoms are just due to a cold, allergies or something more serious. Viruses that can cause mono, bacteria and just simple sinus drainage can all cause a sore throat. Then more serious conditions such as meningitis and strep can be blamed. Strep can occasionally lead to rheumatic fever; which can be very serious, so should be treated with antibiotics.
A person should seek medical attention if their sore throat is accompanied by a severe headache or stiff neck. These symptoms can all be due to meningitis and need immediate medical attention. If a person has a fever of 101F or above along with the sore throat or a fever that last more than forty eight hours a doctor should be contacted. If there are white patches present in the back of the throat or on the tonsils this can be caused by strep. Swollen glands or lymph nodes in the neck can be a sign of an infection so should be check by a doctor. If there is a red rash that feels rough strep should be ruled out. And of course if any of these symptoms appear after knowingly being exposed to strep throat a doctor should be contacted right away. If at any time a sore throat is accompanied by drooling, difficulty swallowing or breathing emergency care should be sought. These symptoms can all be due to epiglottitis which causes enough swelling to close the airway.
Some at home treatments to help relieve the pain of a sore throat may include taking acetaminophen. If the air is dry use a humidifier or steamer to moisten the air. Cool liquids and popcicles or sucking on throat lozenges can help relieve the discomfort of a sore throat. Drink plenty of liquids and add honey to them. Decongestants may help dry the sinus drainage and keep it from running down the back of the throat. If a child has a sore throat some of the same at home treatments can be used depending upon their age.
If there is any question about if a treatment should be used or if the symptoms are severe enough to see a doctor, call and speak with the nurse. They will know if there are any infections currently going around and guide you in the right direction.