The anatomy of a sore throat is the inflammation of the pharynx, which is the tube that connects the mouth and nose to the esophagus and trachea (windpipe). The pharynx is located at the back of the throat and is made up of three parts:
- Nasopharynx: The upper part of the pharynx, behind the nose and soft palate.
- Oropharynx: The middle part of the pharynx, behind the mouth and tongue.
- Laryngopharynx: The lower part of the pharynx, behind the larynx (voice box).
The pharynx is lined with a mucous membrane, which is a moist layer of tissue that helps to protect the throat from infection. The mucous membrane also contains glands that produce mucus, which helps to trap and remove dust and other particles from the air we breathe.
When the pharynx is inflamed, it can become dry, red, and swollen. This can make it painful to swallow and talk. The inflammation can also cause the mucous glands to produce more mucus, which can lead to a runny nose and post-nasal drip.
Common causes of a sore throat include:
- Viral infections, such as the common cold, the flu, and mononucleosis
- Bacterial infections, such as strep throat
- Dry air
- Smoking or secondhand smoke
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Injury to the throat, such as from swallowing a sharp object
Symptoms of a sore throat can vary depending on the cause, but may include:
- Pain or scratchiness in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Runny nose
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Treatment for a sore throat will also vary depending on the cause. In most cases, viral infections will go away on their own within a few days. Bacterial infections will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Here are some tips for relieving the symptoms of a sore throat:
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Gargle with warm salt water several times a day.
- Suck on lozenges or hard candy.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Get plenty of rest.
If your sore throat is severe or does not improve within a few days, see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.