What Causes an Inflamed Throat?

A. Pasbjerg

An inflamed throat can be caused by a variety of issues. Frequently the condition is the result of an infection, either viral or bacterial. People with acid reflux may get sore throats from the acid splashing up from their stomachs. Smoking or exposure to environmental pollutants may also be to blame. Other factors include allergies, excessive breathing through the mouth, and vocal chord strains.

Smoking cigarettes can irritate the throat.
Smoking cigarettes can irritate the throat.

The most common cause of an inflamed throat is viral infection. Colds and the flu typically lead to sore throats, both from drainage of infected sinuses into the throat as well as an associated cough. The coxsackie virus can cause blisters in the throat which can be very painful. Mononucleosis infection may involve severe swelling in the throat and tonsils which can impair swallowing. There are also a number of other viruses that typically lead to throat inflammation, including mumps, measles, and whooping cough.

Secondhand smoke rising from a cigarette, which can cause throat inflammation.
Secondhand smoke rising from a cigarette, which can cause throat inflammation.

Bacterial infections may also lead to an inflamed throat. The most common bacteria that causes throat pain is streptococcus group A. The condition it causes, commonly known as strep throat, is usually characterized by a very painful, red, swollen throat accompanied by a fever and swollen glands.

A medical professional examining a child's inflamed throat.
A medical professional examining a child's inflamed throat.

Sometimes inflammation in the throat is caused by an infection of the tonsils, the lumps of tissue behind the tongue. This condition, called tonsillitis, can be caused by a virus or bacteria. In addition to pain, the tonsils and surrounding area typically become very swollen and may have spots of pus present on them.

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

Another condition often accompanied by a sore throat is acid reflux. Acid reflux causes digestive acids to travel up the esophagus and into the throat. Exposure to the corrosive effects of the acid irritates the tissue there, causing it to become inflamed.

The inhalation of foreign particles can irritate the throat and lead to inflammation. Smoking cigarettes can make the throat very sore; inhalation of secondhand smoke may also inflame the airways. Pollution in the air such as smog may also aggravate the tissue of the throat.

There are several other factors which can also cause an inflamed throat. Overuse of the vocal chords, either from singing or shouting, may strain the throat, causing pain and sometimes laryngitis. Allergies, particularly those caused by environmental irritants like pollen or mold, can lead to irritation. People who breathe through their mouths, especially during dry winter months, may get sore throats.

An inflamed throat may have many causes.
An inflamed throat may have many causes.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I had a strange inflamed throat after having a sinus infection for three months. Little white bumps appeared on my throat, and those areas felt really dry. Even drinking water did not seem to moisten them.

I tried several inflamed throat remedies. I drank warm lemon echinacea tea sweetened with honey. I kept sucking on throat lozenges to soothe the inflammation, but nothing worked.

I had to break down and go to my doctor. She gave me antibiotics, because she said that the white bumps were part of same bacterial infection that had taken over my sinuses. After a few days on the medicine, my throat felt much better.


A severely inflamed throat is one of the main strep throat symptoms. I have had this illness three times in the past two years, and each time, my throat has been so inflamed that I had no choice but to go to the doctor.

It came on quickly, too. In the morning, I had a slightly sore throat, but by that afternoon, it hurt so bad that I could barely stand to sip water. By evening, my throat was so swollen that even saliva could barely make it through when I attempted to swallow.

Also, I had a rising fever. It got up to 101 degrees, and I started to feel out of my head.

My doctor gave me steroids and antibiotics. Strep throat is pretty powerful, and the steroids gave my immune system a jump start on winning the fight.


@kylee07drg – Not being able to breathe through your nose is the worst! I suffer from severe allergies, and I often wind up with a dry throat because of having to breathe through my mouth. However, that is not the only way I get an inflamed throat.

My allergies cause post-nasal drip, so I have constant throat mucus. This causes me to clear my throat often, and over time, that makes my throat become inflamed.

Gargling with salt water helps for awhile, but the mucus that the salt washes away soon gets replaced. It seems that I am stuck with a slightly inflamed throat.


During the winter months, my sinuses often become clogged, yet they are very dry because of the dry air in the house. The heater really sucks the moisture out of the air, and when my sinuses are stuffed and dry, I have to breathe through my mouth when I sleep, which dries out my mouth.

My dry throat causes pain. Drinking water helps a little, but it is usually so dry by morning that it feels sore and a little swelled.

So, I started using a humidifier in my bedroom at night during the winter. This makes it easier to breathe through my nose, and this keeps my throat moist.

Post your comments
Forgot password?