There are numerous medical concerns that can lead to the development of a sore throat. Your health care provider must determine the exact cause of your sore throat in order to implement the most appropriate treatment approach.

Causes of sore throat


  • Strep throat
  • Common cold
  • Mononucleosis
  • Candida (thrush)
  • Peritonsillar abscess
  • Acute epiglottitis
  • Chickenpox
  • COVID-19
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • HIV


  • Cancer
  • Acid reflux
  • Voice abuse
  • Angioedema
  • Allergies
  • Tobacco
  • Pollution
  • Dry air

Consult your doctor if you have any of the following warning signs:

  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Bleeding
  • Severe pain
  • One-sided pain
  • Change in voice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lasts more than 2 weeks

Evaluation and Diagnosis

A detailed physical examination is required in order to determine the cause of one’s throat pain.

Useful tests may include a throat swab for group A Streptococcus, mononucleosis, COVID-19, or Influenza A/B.

Treatment Strategies

Viral illnesses are usually treated symptomatically with nonprescription pain medications.  We encourage you to drink plenty of fluids. Warm saltwater gargles and nonprescription throat lozenges may be soothing.

Bacterial infections usually require antibiotic management – typically for 10 days. It is important to complete the antibiotic as prescribed to prevent further complications.

Examples of conditions that are known to result from bacterial infection:

  • Strep throat
  • Tonsillitis
  • Epiglottitis
  • Peritonsillar abscess

If you have any sudden swelling in the mouth or throat, especially if you have difficulty speaking or swallowing, go immediately to the nearest emergency department as this could be a sign of angioedema.

Cancers in the throat can become quite large before they cause pain. If you have any discomfort, swelling, bleeding or odor in the throat that persists longer than two weeks, please have your throat examined by an otolaryngologist.

Acid reflux is a common cause of a mild discomfort described as a “lump in the throat” or “postnasal drip.” A thorough examination by an otolaryngologist is recommended to exclude cancer before starting treatment. This examination might also include pH probe testing, or an examination of the throat and esophagus under anesthesia.