What are the Common Causes of a Sore Throat and Mucus in the Throat?

Jacob Queen

Sore throat and mucus in the throat generally go hand in hand. This is mostly because the vast majority of sore throat problems come from irritation due to excess mucus. It’s also one of those symptoms that can be caused by a wide variety of different problems, because mucus is associated with so many different aspects of the body’s immune system reaction. For example, if a person gets any kind of upper respiratory infection, a sore throat and mucus in the throat are likely to develop. There are also some specific factors, such as certain viruses, that can be common causes.

A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.

Several viruses are directly related to sore throat pain, and usually when these are involved, medical professionals can’t really identify the exact cause. There usually isn’t much that can be done to cure people when these symptoms have viral causes. If a healthcare provider suspects a virus, he or she will typically give precautionary tests to make sure it’s not mononucleosis or something else serious.

Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.

If a person has sore throat and mucus in the throat, another possible cause is a bacterial infection called strep throat. It can lead to mucus drainage, but in the case of the strep bacteria, the pain in the throat is often caused directly by the bacteria. Strep tends to attack the lining of a person’s throat, leading to severe inflammation. People also often have a fever and other severe symptoms when they develop this condition.

Respiratory infections commonly cause sore throat and mucus in the throat.
Respiratory infections commonly cause sore throat and mucus in the throat.

Sometimes, medical professionals assume that any throat infection they see could be caused by strep. They will often default to prescribing antibiotics to anyone with a sore throat. The antibiotics normally cure a strep infection if that’s the problem, while the body’s immune system usually deals with anything else, such as a virus, that may be causing the pain. There are also tests that help with diagnosis of strep, but patients don’t always want to wait for results before receiving a prescription.

Bacteria in the throat can cause both soreness and the production of mucus.
Bacteria in the throat can cause both soreness and the production of mucus.

Sometimes, a sore throat and mucus in the throat can be caused by a mix of problems. For example, a person with allergies could have excess mucus drainage into the throat, and the area where the drainage is happening could develop a bacterial infection at the same time. In this case, the bacteria and the mucus drainage are both working together to create problems and cause pain. In general, allergies are considered a relatively common cause of throat problems. People can be allergic to many things, from pet dander to pollen, so finding the exact cause in these cases may not be easy.

Excess mucus in the throat should be spit out, not swallowed.
Excess mucus in the throat should be spit out, not swallowed.

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Discussion Comments

Logicfest

And there are a lot of people who are extremely sensitive to drastic changes in temperature. I've had cold and flu-like symptoms during radical temperature changes (30 degrees or more from one day to the next appears to trigger those) and have had them go away after a day or two.

The point? I'm not sure that there is one -- it's just something to be aware of when dealing with these symptoms.

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