Health Facts on sore throat – we’ve all suffered from it

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Having a sore throat is very common. It could be a one-time episode or a recurrent one. Experiencing pain, dryness and scratchiness in the throat due to a sore throat are common symptoms affecting millions of patients each year. Sore throat can affect both adults and children, and it is recommended  to seek medical advice from a qualified doctor. 

In Singapore, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist Dr. Annabelle Leong offers her expertise in managing sore throat and all other ENT maladies. Diagnosing the correct cause behind your sore throat helps in managing the condition accurately.

How do ENT doctors diagnose a sore throat?

To see if you have a sore throat, your doctor will perform a physical examination. This will usually include:

  • Checking the throat, ears and nose with a medical instrument
  • Examining the glands or lymph nodes in the neck to see if it is swollen
  • Studying the breathing pattern of the individual with a stethoscope

If required, a throat swab may be performed to detect the presence of any streptococcal bacteria. In this procedure, your doctor will rub a sterile swab on the back of the patient’s throat to collect a sample of secretions and send it off to a laboratory for testing. Using this sample, a rapid antigen test might be performed or for more reliability a throat culture may be taken. The results of the culture report should be available within 48 hours.

What are the causes of recurrent sore throat?

The most common cause of sore throat could be tonsillitis. This occurs when there is an inflammation of the tonsils causing difficulty in swallowing, resulting from  swollen glands and potentially fever. It is quite common in children, but rare in those below 2 years of age.

Tonsillitis is mostly caused by viruses which are inhaled from the air as droplets when people cough and sneeze. The secretions from the nose and throat can be infectious. Tonsillitis can also be caused by bacteria.One form is called Strep throat  and is caused by a highly contagious bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes. Shared utensils and beverages should be avoided to minimise the spread of infection. Patients with Strep throat who find it unable to eat and drink or take medications, are usually given an intravenous dose of antibiotics.

Mucous that is infected secreted from the nasal cavity might be another cause for sore throat. Individuals who have sinusitis or infections of the sinus have a higher probability of having a sore throat.  An experienced otolaryngologist is able to find a solution for these recurrent sore throats.

Another cause of recurrent sore throat could be acid reflux.  Gastroesophageal reflux disease causes stomach fluids to constantly flow back and forth from mouth to stomach. This backwash could cause the lining of the oesophagus to irritate. This could lead to a persistent dry cough and even a sore throat. Diagnosing your condition is important to relieve the symptoms. An ENT doctor can prescribe the correct medications to relieve you from these uncomfortable symptoms. You might also have to make certain modifications to your life-style such as refraining from alcohol and highly spicy foods.

Giving up  smoking is also an important change of habit to add to your life if you have a recurrent sore throat. The cigarette smoke contains chemicals which are harmful  to your throat and lungs. A qualified ENT specialist will have to do a thorough medical examination with a naso-endoscope to rule out the presence of any sinister conditions like throat cancer.

What can I do to avoid a recurrent sore throat?

To avoid this recurrent malady, staying hydrated is important. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily helps. If you are a smoker, it is important to quit. The toxins in the cigarette smoke can damage the delicate lining of the respiratory track and nasal passage. If your surroundings are dry, you should use a humidifier to  moist the surroundings. A betadine throat spray might make you feel better. Warm broths, gargling with salt water and sipping diluted apple cider vinegar can be alternatives to gain relief. Common over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Advil can help suppress the symptoms.

What are the recommendations by an ENT doctor?

Depending on the severity and frequency of your sore throat, your ENT doctor’s recommendations may include:

  • Antibiotics if the sore throat is due to bacteria. It is important to continue the antibiotic course for the entire duration to avoid a relapse of the condition.
  • Prescribe antihistamines to reduce the discomfort from sore throat
  • Administer pain relieving medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Throat sprays to relieve discomfort temporarily
  • Perform  Tonsillectomy – recurrent tonsillitis might require the removal of your tonsils. It can be performed as an out-patient  procedure, but most patients prefer to do it with a hospital admission. Patients are advised not to travel for 14 days following surgery.  

Usually sore throats are harmless viral episodes, but if symptoms are persistent and you are a victim of recurrent sore throats, then opting for medical advice is recommended. Conditions such as a strep throat or sore throat with breathing difficulties should not be overlooked.

Dr. Annabelle is patient-centric and a friendly, highly qualified doctor whom you can trust for your ENT ailments. She has practice ENT clinic locations both  at Mt. Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore.

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