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Symptoms and Signs of Sore Throat

Doctor's Notes on Sore Throat

Sore throat describes irritation of the structures of the throat, including the pharynx (the area of the throat behind the soft palate of the mouth), the tonsils, the larynx (the top part of the windpipe, or trachea), and rarely, the epiglottis (a flap in the throat that keeps food from going into the lungs). Causes of sore throats include viral or bacterial infections, smoking, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), post-nasal drip, oral thrush, breathing through the mouth, or serious illness such as some cancers or AIDS.

Depending on the cause, symptoms that may accompany a sore throat include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, feeling unwell (malaise), pain with swallowing, hoarse voice, cough, runny nose, pus on the surface of the tonsils, throat redness, tender and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, drooling or spitting (as swallowing becomes too painful), difficulty breathing, or vesicles (bubbles of fluid on a red base) in the mouth or throat.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.