What is a Throat Infection?

R. Anacan

A throat infection is a general term describing a disease affecting the area of and surrounding the throat. Commonly known as a sore throat, this condition is most commonly caused by bacteria or viruses. It has been estimated that a throat infection is one of the top ten reasons that people visit emergency rooms for treatment.

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

When a virus or bacteria infects the throat, it causes a painful inflammation of the tissue in the throat area. This causes symptoms such as scratchiness of throat, redness and swelling of the throat, pain, hoarseness of the voice, coughing, and pain when swallowing. Other symptoms of a infection in the throat may include stuffy nose, runny nose, and redness of the eyes, headache and fever.

Hoarseness is a sign of a throat infection.
Hoarseness is a sign of a throat infection.

The majority of sore throats are caused by viral infections, and most of these typically run its course within three to six days. Viral infections are not treatable with antibiotics. However, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic treatment if the viral infection is also accompanied by a bacterial infection. Treatment for a sore throat caused by a virus generally consist of drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and taking medication such as acetaminophen, and ibuprofen that help to provide relief from the symptoms of the infection.

Pain is one symptom of a throat infection.
Pain is one symptom of a throat infection.

Mononucleosis, also known as mono, is an example of an infection caused by a virus. Symptoms of mononucleosis include those listed above, along with fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite. Unlike most common sore throats, symptoms of mononucleosis can linger for an extended period of time.

Drinking fluids can ease the symptoms of a throat infection.
Drinking fluids can ease the symptoms of a throat infection.

A patient with a bacterial infection may be prescribed antibiotics by his or her doctor. Bacteria are living microorganisms that can be killed through the use of antibiotics. Viruses cannot be killed with antibiotics because they are not living organisms, but rather a capsule of genetic material. While bacteria can reproduce and multiply on their own, viruses cannot. Viruses infect and take over a host cell, reprogramming the cell to reproduce the virus.

A throat infection can cause headaches.
A throat infection can cause headaches.

Antibiotics may help hasten recovery and reduce the period of time that the infected person is contagious to others. In addition to any prescribed medications, many doctors will also recommend that a patient with a bacterial throat infection get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with warm salt water, and use a humidifier.

Gargling with warm salt water is often recommended for a sore throat.
Gargling with warm salt water is often recommended for a sore throat.

Strep throat is an example of a bacterial throat infection. It is known as strep throat because the bacteria that causes it is called streptococcus. While strep throat is not generally harmful, if left untreated it can lead to other conditions such as rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, and tonsillitis. When a doctor suspects that a patient may have strep throat, a rapid strep test, or a throat culture will be done to check for the presence of streptococcus. The rapid strep test is not as accurate as a throat culture, but results can be received within 15 minutes. In contrast, it can take up to two days to receive results from a throat culture.

Throat infections may be caused by bacteria.
Throat infections may be caused by bacteria.

A patient with a sore throat accompanied by a high fever and difficulty breathing or swallowing should contact a doctor right away. If a sore throat is accompanied with a low grade fever, a doctor should be contacted if symptoms do not get better within a day or two. It may also be a good idea to visit a doctor if an infection is not accompanied by other sinus symptoms, if it hurts to swallow liquids, or if throat pain lasts for more than a week.

A bacterial throat infection such as strep throat is treatable with antibiotics.
A bacterial throat infection such as strep throat is treatable with antibiotics.
A throat culture may be necessary to determine the presence of strep throat.
A throat culture may be necessary to determine the presence of strep throat.
Strep throat often presents with fever and a white pus around the tonsils.
Strep throat often presents with fever and a white pus around the tonsils.

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Discussion Comments

anon318189

The last 18 months have been very painful for me. I have been affected with a sinus infection. The symptoms are: redness inside my nose and my throat; swallowing inside my nose and throat; coughing; throat pain when I cough.

I applied various treatments but they have not helped me. What can I do?

anon310619

Is it good to drink red wine with a throat infection?

anon304341

I am only 11 and trying to solve a situation. I have a very sore throat with difficulty in swallowing, I get mini migraines constantly I get on and off ear aces when Ii talk and have a badly blocked nose. What should I do? P.S. I have already got my tonsils removed.

anon202204

i have a throat infection. it's a very uncomfortable situation for me.

anon166224

What medicine can we give for a four month old infant for hoarseness of the voice?

anon165901

i have a sore throat. i cannot speak very well and it's hard for me to talk. what should i do? Please tell me.

anon161663

i have throat pain this started in last weak.i take medicine but i have no relief. what can i do?

anon152709

my throat has hurt badly for two days whenever I swallow anything.

it also hurts when i touch the junction from the outside. i have a little fever too. The doctor told me that i have a throat infection and gave me Zothran, but after a day, there is no improvement in my throat.

anon143020

little white bumps is definitely strep!

anon132878

I have a sore throat with difficulty in swallowing. to make it worse it is also making me feel as though I have ear and toothache. how should I go about its treatment? cmkt

anon120583

I'm 10 and I have a throat infection and I can't eat or drink. It stinks!

anon117826

my throat is itching every night. what can i do. I wash with salt water but it's not helping.

anon113664

I am suffering from sore throat since last seven days and today is my fifth day of antibiotic course. it feels like it is reducing. I would like to know the reason of such sore throats.

anon111336

I am suffering from sore throat since last seven days and today is my fifth day of antibiotic course. it feels like it is reducing. I would like to know the reason of such sore throats.

anon106928

when you have little white bumps in the back of your throat and you eat and swallow, what is this.

anon101591

I feel my throat dry and a little painful when I did not talk even just a little for three or four hours. And every morning I wake up and I spit and I see dried blood mixed with my saliva. What does that mean?

InfoHopper

@cmsmith10 - Tonsillitis is considered a throat infection and it is caused from the swelling of the tonsils. You can feel if your glands are swollen by placing your fingers where your throat meets your jaw. If you are unsure, always consult a doctor and make sure to get throat lozenges that taste like candy!

cmsmith10

Is tonsillitis considered to be a throat infection?

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