woman rubs sore throat and drinks tea

Soothing a Sore Throat

This season, germs and illness are on the rise and children especially are coming down with colds, the flu and sore throats. A sore throat can start as just a tickle but can get worse with time and depending on the type of infection, can include other symptoms as well. Sore throats can be prevalent and contagious, especially in children, who are exposed to germs more frequently.

Home Treatment for a Sore Throat

A gargle or herbal tea with honey and lemon can ease the sting of a sore throat. Lemons are packed with vitamin C, which can help fight infection. Avoid foods that are difficult to swallow and stick to soft foods or soup which can be soothing and won’t scratch your throat further. Drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest to give your body the best fighting shot against your illness. Humidifiers can also keep the air moist and open your sinuses.

When Should I Seek Treatment?

If your sore throat does not improve within 5 to 7 days and is accompanied by a constant fever, chills, or if you have trouble swallowing, seek treatment with your primary care provider or urgent care. Your provider will be able to run tests to help you know whether your infection is bacterial (strep throat) or viral and can determine a course of care to help you feel better.

Bacterial Tonsilitis – Strep Throat

Dr. Sally Smalley speaks to a patient about her throat.
Dr. Sally Smalley, otolaryngologist at AdventHealth Medical Group Ear, Nose and Throat at Calhoun talks to a patient about care for sore throats.

Sally Smalley, MD, otolaryngologist at AdventHealth Medical Group Ear, Nose and Throat at Calhoun cites the “Centor Criteria” for determining whether to get swabbed for a rapid test for group-A strep or to wait it out. Dr. Smalley says it’s common to find small traces of group-A streptococcal bacteria in tests, but the infection could instead be caused by a virus.

“It’s important to determine whether the throat infection is bacterial or viral before getting the rapid strep test to confirm the patient’s clinical diagnosis,” said Dr. Smalley.

The four criteria to keep in mind before testing for strep-A bacteria are:

  • Sore tonsils with white substance (pus) on tonsils
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes on neck
  • Fever
  • Absence of cough

If these four symptoms are present, says Dr. Smalley, then a strep test is appropriate, and antibiotics will be effective in treating the illness. Oftentimes strep can also cause stomach pain or diarrhea, a headache, vomiting or nausea, especially in children. Scarlet fever is a rash that can develop in children but is rare in children younger than 3 years old.

Viral Tonsilitis

If the patient is experiencing a cough and large red tonsils with a sore throat throat, then it is most likely caused by a virus and won’t respond to antibiotics. The symptoms caused by viral tonsilitis include:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness – strained or scratchy voice
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

These symptoms will improve over time and need at-home care to feel better. You can soothe your sore throat with over-the-counter lozenges or sprays. If you don’t experience improvement or if your symptoms get significantly worse, you can always check in with your provider.

Frequent Sore Throats

Some people experience many sore throats in a year, especially kids and teens. Dr. Smalley says one solution to frequent sore throats is removing the patient’s tonsils and adenoids. This procedure dramatically decreases the number of throat infections, both caused by bacterial and viruses, and can lead to an overall better quality of life.

“A tonsil removal, or tonsillectomy, can prevent recurrent infections, chronic tonsil stones and treat breathing and sleep issues in children and adults,” says Dr. Smalley.

Preventing Wintertime Illnesses

To steer clear of a cold, the flu and a host of other wintertime sicknesses, prevention is key. 

To stay healthy and well this winter, you can:

  • Get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine
  • Avoid handshakes
  • Avoid processed sugar, which can increase the risk of infection in the body
  • Gargle with warm salt water and apple cider vinegar
  • Get sufficient rest
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Take vitamin C and zinc daily 
  • Take elderberry products, like capsules and lozenges
  • Stay well-hydrated
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly 

Whole-Person Care for Cold Season and Beyond

At AdventHealth, whole-person care is at the heart of everything we do. Lean on your trusted AdventHealth care team for pediatric expertise, ear, nose and throat specialists, urgent care and emergency care. We’re here with the support you deserve and the care your family needs to feel like themselves again. Learn more about AdventHealth Medical Group Ear, Nose and Throat at Calhoun.

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