This is one of the most common conditions experienced by people. In most cases, it is not considered a serious problem compared to other conditions. But there is so much more in this condition, and it should be taken seriously as it can lead to significant issues when taken for granted. Having enough knowledge about throat irritation is very helpful in preventing the problem from getting worse.
A person with an irritated throat experiences discomfort and feels a burning pain. The feeling gets worse when swallowing. Although the symptoms are unpleasant and often temporary, sometimes it could mean a more severe health issue like laryngitis. Below are some of the essential information to know about throat irritation, from what causes it, and how it can be treated.
Causes of Throat Irritation
Allergies are included in the most known causes of throat irritation. An allergic reaction happens when an allergen triggers the immune system response of the body. Below are common allergy triggers that irritate the throat.
- Animal dander
- Foods (dairy products, strawberries, peanut butter)
The allergy can be mild to severe. An irritated throat can indicate a slight but uncomfortable allergic reaction. Pollutants can also cause throat irritation. These pollutants include:
- Cleaning products
- Tobacco Smoke
Dry indoor air can trigger a scratchy and rough feeling in the throat. Breathing through the mouth resulting from nasal congestion can also cause a sore throat.
Muscles in the throat can get strained by talking loudly or talking for an extended time. Strained muscles can also lead to throat irritation.
Outdoor and indoor pollutants like chemicals and tobacco smoke can lead to a persistent sore throat. Drinking alcohol, eating spicy food, and chewing tobacco can irritate the throat.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a kind of digestive and personal disorder where the acids in the stomach back up the esophagus. GERD may also lead to throat irritation.
Cancerous tumors of the throat, larynx, or tongue can trigger a sore throat. Other symptoms may consist of difficulty when swallowing, hoarseness, a lump in the neck, blood in saliva, and noisy breathing.
Signs and Symptoms
An irritated means that the throat is swollen, irritated, and scratchy. Depending on the cause, the symptoms include:
- Skin Rash
- Red and Swollen Tonsils
- White Spots on the Throat or Tonsils
- Joint and muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
Diagnosis and Treatment
Proper diagnosis is a must when it comes to throat irritation. A doctor will conduct a physical exam that includes the following:
- Use of lighted device to check the throat, as well as nasal passages and the ears.
- Feeling and checking the neck for any swollen glands or lymph nodes.
- Listening to the patient’s breathing using a stethoscope.
In most cases, doctors conduct a test that will discover streptococcal bacteria. A sterile swab is rubbed at the back part of the throat to acquire secretion samples. The sample is forwarded to a laboratory to be tested.
Most clinics have their laboratory that can provide a result for rapid antigen tests faster. But another test called a throat culture, which is more reliable, is also forwarded to a laboratory that returns the results in 24-48 hours.
The rapid antigen test is not as sensitive, but it can quickly detect strep bacteria. With this, the physician might send a throat culture to the laboratory for strep throat testing in case the antigen test is negative.
At times, the doctor may opt for a molecular test to find streptococcal bacteria. With this test, the doctor jabs a sterile swab at the back of the throat to acquire secretion samples. The sample is tested in a lab also. The doctor may have the precise results in just a few minutes.
As there are different causes for throat irritation, the procedure may also vary according to what causes it.
If a viral infection causes throat irritation, it often lasts 5-7 days and may not need medical treatment. If there is pain or fever, acetaminophen, and other mild pain relievers can help.
If a bacterial infection causes the sore throat, the doctor can prescribe antibiotics. It is essential to take the medications prescribed by the doctor as failure to do so can worsen the infection or spread it to other body parts. In case of a missed dosage, immediately talk to the doctor.
Risks and Complications
Untreated or partially treated throat irritation can be very risky and lead to different complications. It is necessary to take the condition seriously to avoid serious problems.
A formation of abscess at the back of the throat as a result of the untreated sore throat could lead to severe illness-causing pain in the neck and throat, difficulty in swallowing, and other respiratory compromises. The abscess might be drained and may require hospitalization.
Acute rheumatic fever is a more severe complication. If the sore throat is not treated or not appropriately treated by antibiotics, the bacteria stays in the tonsil and triggers a persistent immune response in the body.
Sometimes it can trigger the immune system to attack the other organs in the body like the heart valves and joints. When the heart valves get involved, it can cause damage to the heart and may lead to heart failure. Treating sore throat with the right antibiotics can help prevent rheumatic fever.
A similar immune process to rheumatic fever might involve the kidneys and lead to kidney inflammation known as PSGN or post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. The unfortunate thing is that there is no evidence, yet that treatment sore throat would prevent this condition. Such condition is a lot more common, but less ominous compared to rheumatic fever. Typically, it gets resolved after a few weeks and is not likely to lead to permanent kidney damage.
How to Prevent Throat Irritation
Avoiding the known causes as well as allergy triggers can significantly help in the prevention of throat irritation. It is essential to take the needed steps to prevent the infection, such as properly and frequently washing your hands. Such a simple act can also help avoid scratchy throat that is caused by colds and other infectious diseases.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While throat irritation is not considered as a medical emergency, it can have very uncomfortable symptoms. If the itchy throat worsens and comes with wheezing, painful swallowing, difficulty breathing, immediately seek medical attention. At the same time, seek medical care if there is no improvement on the symptoms even after some time or even after using home remedies.
A visit to the doctor would mean that he or she will be diagnosing the condition that causes itchiness in the throat by asking the medical history of the patient. The doctor will also be asking what happens when the person experiences itchiness in the throat.
For instance, if the itchiness happens after going outside, this could mean an allergy to pollen or outdoor dust. If the doctor suspects a food allergy, the patient might be asked to keep a food journal. In this journal, the patient should track the foods that are consumed, as well as the symptoms that are being experienced after eating the food.
Moreover, allergy testing may also be recommended by the doctor. This involves exposing the skin to small amounts of irritants. In case the skin reacts to a specific kind of irritant, this means an allergy. Some types of allergy testing could also be done through blood tests. Here are some of the most known types of irritants.
- Pet dander
To make a diagnosis, the doctor needs to examine the throat for:
- Sinus or nasal drainage
- Signs of inflammation
As the patient visits a doctor, it will be wise to ask the following questions to avoid making the condition worse.
- Will drinking hot drinks worsen the condition?
- Is honey effective at easing sore throat pain?
- Is it okay to work or go to school if I have a sore throat?
- Can dry room trigger a sore throat?
- Are there medicines that cause sore throat?
Bacterial and viral infections, as well as injuries and irritants, cause throat irritation. In most cases, it gets better after a few days without the need for treatment. Saltwater gargle, warm liquid, rest, and OTC pain relievers can soothe sore throats at home.
But in case of more severe symptoms, such as difficulty in swallowing or breathing, stiff neck, and high fever, visit a doctor. After all, when it comes to illnesses, it may be cliché, but it works- prevention is better than cure. Upon seeing or experiencing any symptoms of throat irritation, be sure to schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible.
Table of Medications
- Cepacol Sore Throat
- Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray
- Halls Mentho-Lyptus Drops
- benzocaine / menthol
- Chloraseptic Sore Throat Lozenges
- Cepacol Dual Relief Sore Throat