CAUSES OF SORE THROATS & THROAT INFECTIONS:
Throat infections tend to begin with a sore throat. Most sore throats are caused by viral or bacterial infections such as a cold (viral) or a Streptococcus infection (bacterial). Irritants such as smoke, dust, fumes or a bad cough can also be responsible. Most sore throats are not serious but may be accompanied by a cold, a runny nose and an ear infection, particularly in children. Generally they run their course in a few days to a week. However it is important to assess what type of infection you are dealing with from the onset. A sore throat can also signal many childhood diseases such as measles, chickenpox or scarlet fever.
If you take action immediately, at the first sign of a sore throat, you should be able to avoid the need for medical intervention.
TYPES OF THROAT INFECTIONS:
SEPTIC THROAT is any sore throat or throat infection caused by a bacterial infection. Most bacterial throat infections are caused by Streptococcus bacteria.
A streptococcus infection is highly contagious and so spreads very easily amongst children and families. It is more common in children over three years of age and tends to come on very quickly. Symptoms are a high temperature, red and swollen tonsils with white blotches, and tender, swollen lymph nodes at the side of the neck. Other possible symptoms include headache, earache, fever and chills,Â nausea and vomiting.
There are several different types of throat infection and all begin with a sore throat, which can be viral or bacterial.
PHARYNGITIS is an inflammation of the throat. It may be acute (short) or chronic (long) but is rarely serious unless breathing is affected by the swollen and inflamed tissues.
LARYNGITIS is an inflammation of the voice box and causes a sore throat and hoarse voice. Laryngitis can affect people for a short or long period of time. Acute laryngitis is usually due to a viral infection and often occurs at the same time as a cold. It tends to last for 1-2 weeks and clears up by itself. Chronic laryngitis is often due to constant irritation, for instance it may affect smokers and people who use their voice a great deal. It can also be caused by persistent acute laryngitis that has not been properly treated.
STREP THROAT is âacute streptococcal pharyngitisâ and is an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria that causes a sore throat. Scarlet fever (another form of group A strep disease) can follow strep throat. It is usually contagious and lasts for a specific length of time whether or not it is treated. Symptoms of strep throat are a red and painful sore throat and possible white patches on your tonsils. You also may have swollen lymph nodes in your neck, a fever, and a headache. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain can occur but are more common in children than in adults.
TONSILLITIS is an inflammation of the tonsils and symptoms can include pain in the tonsil area and inability to swallow and/or painful swallowing. White spots may also appear on the tonsils. There are 3 main types of tonsillitis: acute, subacute and chronic. Acute tonsillitis can either be bacterial or viral in origin â such as the Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of glandular fever) or the Coxsackie virus. Subacute tonsillitis (which can last between 3 weeks and 3 months) is caused by the bacterium Actinomyces. Chronic tonsillitis, which can last for long periods if not treated, is almost always bacterial, and is extremely painful.
The tonsils are areas of lymphatic tissue on either side of the upper throat. Younger children tend to be more prone to viral tonsillitis whereas older children and adults tend to get bacterial tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis is most common in children but it can occur at any age. In adults it can be a sign that the body’s immune system is not asÂ effective as it should be.Â Repeated bouts of tonsillitis can lead to it becoming a chronic condition. The more repeated bouts of tonsillitis a person has the more difficult itÂ can beÂ to cure.Â Each time the tonsils become infected and inflamed scar tissue occurs.
Repeated prescriptions of antibiotics can lead to tonsillectomy (having the tonsils removed) which is clearly undesirable:
âA British study divided children with tonsillitis into 3 groups. One group was given 10 days of antibiotic, the 2nd group was given none and the 3rd group was given a prescription and told to use it only if symptoms did not settle by the 3rd day. There was no difference in outcome between the 3 groups and in the 3rd group only 69% used the prescription.â
Little P, Williamson I, Warner G, et al; Open randomised trial of prescribing strategies in managing sore throat. BMJ. 1997 Mar 8;314(7082):722-7. [abstract]
QUINSY is a rare condition that can sometimes occur as a complication of acute tonsillitis. It can develop when an infection spreads from a swollen tonsil to the surrounding area. In cases of quinsy, an abscess develops between the back of one of the tonsils and the wall of the throat. The medical name for quinsy is peritonsillar abscess. Quinsy occurs infrequently because most people who get tonsillitis receive effective treatment early enough to prevent quinsy developing.
Unless your throat infection is viral antibiotics are prescribed. These destroy good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. They also destroy beneficial enzymes and can upset the digestive system. Frequent use of antibiotics can lead to a lower immune system and increases the chances of bacterial resistance.
At the very first sign of a sore throat act quickly and use natural antibacterial and anti-viral immune-boosting supplements to fight the infection and avoid the need for medical intervention â see NATURAL TREATMENT FOR THROAT INFECTIONS
- Drink plenty of fluids, particularly fresh juices diluted with water. For children try making frozen lollypops out of fresh juices and add liquid herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal if you need to hide the taste.
- To coat and soothe a sore throat try making a drink of hot water with freshly grated ginger, fresh lime or lemon juice and manuka honey which has antiseptic properties.
- If swallowing is difficult or painful eat soft and tender food by poaching and steaming, try homemade soups and cold fruit purees or yoghurt. Avoid eating foods that are hot and spicy, salty or acidic as these can irritate the throat.
- Avoid dairy products and excessive meat or soya consumption during this time. These foods increase mucous production and can worsen inflammation within the body.