Most sore throats are caused by viruses that cause the common cold and flu (influenza). Less often, sore throats are due to bacterial infections.
Viral illnesses that cause a sore throat include:
- Common cold
- Flu (influenza)
- Mononucleosis (mono)
- Croup — a common childhood illness characterized by a harsh, barking cough
Bacterial infections that can cause a sore throat include:
- Strep throat, which is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus
- Whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection
- Diphtheria, a serious respiratory illness that's rare in industrialized nations, but is more common in developing countries
Other common causes of sore throat include:
- Allergies. Allergies to pet dander, molds, dust and pollen can cause a sore throat. The problem may be complicated by postnasal drip, which can irritate and inflame the throat
- Dryness. Dry indoor air, especially in winter when buildings are heated, can make your throat feel rough and scratchy, particularly in the morning when you first wake up. In addition, haze and similar conditions may irritate your throat. Breathing through your mouth — often because of chronic nasal congestion — also can cause a dry, sore throat
- Irritants. Outdoor air pollution can cause ongoing throat irritation. Indoor pollution — tobacco smoke or chemicals — also can cause chronic sore throat. Chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and eating spicy foods also can irritate your throat
- Muscle strain. You can strain muscles in your throat just as you can strain them in your arms or legs. Yelling at a sporting event, trying to talk to someone in a noisy environment or talking for long periods without rest can result in a sore throat and hoarseness
Feel free to let us know if you have discovered some other common causes of sore throat.