The winter season has arrived. Winter months are all about snowstorms, cozy nights by the fire, big cups of hot chocolate and, unfortunately, colds and sore throats. In the winter months, it seems like everywhere you look children or adults are coming down with a cold. Viruses like the common cold often start in the throat and they are accompanied by a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Sore throats are most commonly caused by a virus. For many reasons, sore throats tend to be more common in the winter months. During this time, we are exposed to much more dry air than during other seasons. Homes and buildings tend to become overheated, causing our throats to dry up. Also, due to the shorter days and drop in temperatures, people tend to exercise less during the winter. This makes it much harder on our immune system to fight colds and infections. Research has shown that people who are physically active are less likely to catch winter colds and if they do, symptoms will be less severe. We also spend more time indoors and therefore have more of a chance to catch a cold and develop viruses. Traveling on crowded airplanes and in busy airports also opens up ample opportunities for catching colds.
While other causes, such as allergies, air pollution, smoking or being in a smoky room, may also contribute to sore throats, viruses are usually to blame. Many viral sore throats don’t respond to antibiotics, so sometimes all you can do is rest, drink warm tea with honey, and take over-the-counter throat lozenges to ease the irritation. You can also try using a humidifier in your home to ease dryness.
Most cases of sore throats go away on their own after a few days. However, sore throats can also be associated with other infections. One particular type of virus called mononucleosis affects the tonsils and can lead to severe swelling of the glands. Another cause of a sore throat could be streptococcal bacteria, commonly known as strep throat. Symptoms of strep throat include a fever higher than 100.4 degrees, a white patch at the back of the throat, and redness in the back of the throat. Strep throat and mononucleosis both require medical treatment.
If you have a sore throat that lasts for more than a week or gets worse over time, you should be seen by one of our ear nose and throat specialists.