A sore throat may be accompanied by swollen or tender lymph glands (in your neck). Other common symptoms that can accompany a sore throat, particularly if it is due to bacteria or a virus, include the following:
- All-over aches and body pains, sore muscles, or fatigue.
- A high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over.
- Runny nose (rhinitis) or nasal congestion.
If your sore throat presents with a fever, it is recommended that you investigate the cause, because you could have a more serious underlying condition, such as:
- Epiglottis, where the tissue at the back of the throat becomes red and inflamed, which can lead to difficulty breathing.
- An abscess (sometimes referred to as quinsy), or painful collection of pus between the tonsil and the wall of the throat, which is usually a symptom of tonsillitis.
- Laryngitis, which is inflammation of the larynx (voice box).
- Strep throat, a bacterial infection.
- Glandular fever, which often also presents with swollen glands in the neck.
It is often the case that no cause for the sore throat can be found. Sore throat is often a symptom of a bacterial infection, such as the common cold, a virus like influenza, or tonsillitis.
The most common bacterial and viral causes of a sore throat include:
- Common cold viruses such as rhinovirus, coronavirus and parainfluenza viruses, which are responsible for around 25% of all sore throats.
- Some types of streptococcal bacteria, such as group A streptococcal bacteria (the cause of 10% of sore throats in adults and 30% of sore throats in children), groups C and G.
Other bacteria and viruses are responsible for far fewer cases (less than 5%) of sore throat, including A and B type flu viruses, adenovirus (which causes the eye infection conjunctivitis), herpes simplex virus type 1 (cold sore virus), Epstein Barr virus (EBV) which causes glandular fever and mononucleosis (also called mono).
What to do next
It is recommended that you make an appointment to see a doctor if your sore throat is severe, does not go away after a few days, or if you have regularly occurring sore throats or an underlying condition affecting the immune system.
Some people are at greater risk of developing complications from a sore throat than others. These include HIV or AIDS infection, leukaemia or bone marrow cancer, asplenia, aplastic anaemia, are receiving chemotherapy treatment, taking immunosuppressants, antithyroid medication, or a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD).
If your sore throat persists for more than a few days, it is recommended that you get a second opinion, particularly if you are also experiencing a fever.
In all cases of sore throat, it is recommended that you see a doctor, rather than trying to self-diagnose. Speak to your doctor about methods of treatment that are most appropriate for you.