Sore throat is an inflammation of the wall of the throat. Often, the tonsils are inflamed too. The condition can suddenly arise, but sometimes the condition may be chronic. A sore throat can also be an expression of a disease that affects the entire body, such as infectious mononucleosis and leukemia.


A sore throat is caused by a virus or bacterium, but can also have other causes:

Throat pain usually passes on its own after a few days, but an inflammation which is accompanied by high fever may take three weeks. A sore throat is contagious. A person may be infected by inhaling water droplets containing the pathogen. These droplets are released into the air by coughing of a person with sore throat. After infection, it takes about three days before the first symptoms occur.


In case of a sore throat, the following signs and symptoms may occur:


The diagnosis of sore throat is easily made by the general practitioner. Usually, the symptoms already indicate a sore throat. Looking into the throat demonstrates that the pharynx is red and swollen and is sometimes hidden under a substantial layer of spit. Also the palate and tonsils are often red. Optionally, a smear can be made from the throat and blood tests can be carried out. However, those latter two examinations are rarely performed in case of sore throats. In children, there is often tonsillitis.


Most patients with a sore throat don’t need to visit a doctor. The symptoms of the sore throat usually disappear after a few days to a week. In order to combat the pain, the patient can use paracetamol. Treatment with antibiotics is rarely needed. Throat pain is usually caused by a virus and antibiotics don’t work against it. When a person has a severe sore throat for more than 5 times a year, or more than six times in the last two years, removal of the tonsils may help.


A viral sore throat is a nasty, but generally harmless disease that will disappear on its own within a week. Treatment is usually not necessary. Sore throat in case of infectious mononucleosis, which sometimes may be quite severe, also passes on its own.
A sore throat caused by a bacterium, often has a more severe course. The pain is worse and the fever is higher, but even these infections will usually heal on their own.