Sore Throat

What is it?

A sore throat often makes it painful to swallow. A sore throat can also feel dry and scratchy. A sore throat is a frequent symptom of the common cold or other acute respiratory tract infections. In some cases, a lab test will need to be done to determine if you or your child needs antibiotics.

What causes it?

  • Most sore throats are caused by viruses, like ones that cause a cold or the flu
  • Some sore throats, like strep throat, are caused by bacteria; strep throat is caused by Group A streptococcus
  • Other causes include:
    • Allergies
    • Dry air
    • Pollution (airborne chemicals or irritants)
    • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke

Signs and Symptoms of a Viral Infection Accompanied by a Sore Throat

  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches
  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever (less than 102°F)

Preventing a Sore Throat

  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid exposure to second hand smoke and do not expose children to second hand smoke

How to Feel Better

Rest, over-the-counter medicines and other self-care methods may help you feel better as well as:

  • DRINK FLUIDS Clear liquids are most soothing and help to thin out the mucus at the back of your throat. Cold drinks, popsicles and mild (not citrus) juices are often preferred although some people find warmer liquids (broth, tea with honey and lemon) feel better.
  • THROAT LOZENGES give temporary relief of pain.
  • GARGLE WITH WARM SALT WATER to sooth throat and decrease swelling.
  • INCREASE REST as much as needed to get well and let your body heal.
  • PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE Wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, and properly dispose of used facial tissues.
  • DON'T SMOKE as the smoke irritates and dries the membranes that line the nose and throat.
  • MOIST HEAT COMPRESSES (i.e. washcloths moistened with warm tap water) applied to the neck help swollen glands feel better.
  • MEDICATIONS: ALWAYS read the labels first!
  • Talk with a local Pharmacist if unsure what to take.

Call Student Health (434.395.2102) or Urgent Care/Emergency Department if SHWC Closed:

  • IF you have fever higher than 100.5ºF (38ºC) for more than 3 days or if medication doesn't lower your temperature
  • IF sore throat lasts more than 3 days
  • IF you see pus on your tonsils
  • IF you develop a sore throat after being in contact with someone diagnosed as having strep throat.
  • IF sore throat seems severe and/or worsens quickly
  • IF you have a sore throat with a previous diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease, rheumatic fever or heart murmur
  • ANYTIME you are unsure of what to do

Seek IMMEDIATE Health Care at Student Health or Urgent Care/Emergency Department:

  • IF it hurts too much to swallow your saliva or medicines
  • If it becomes hard to breathe/you feel like your throat is closing up

A Note about Strep Throat:

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes only 10% of all sore throats. Strep throat can ONLY be diagnosed by a throat culture (results take 24-72 hours) that is taken by a Health Care Provider.


Cough

What is it?

An occasional cough is normal — it helps clear foreign substances and secretions from your lungs and prevents infection. Cough often accompanies colds and flu. However, coughs associated with cold or flu usually last a couple of weeks. A cough that persists for longer than 2 weeks is usually the result of an underlying problem.   

Self-Care Options for Symptoms:

  • DON'T SMOKE it irritates the lining of the nose and throat and can worsen symptoms.
  • INCREASE HUMIDITY to reduce nasal stuffiness. If you do not have a humidifier or vaporizer, try sitting in a steamy bathroom with a hot running shower for 15 minutes.
  • PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE to prevent spreading your cold. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands and dispose of used tissues. Avoid sharing towels, drinks, cigarettes, and eating utensils.
  • GARGLE WITH WARM SALT WATER a couple of times per day. This will help cut through the mucus in the back of your throat if that is what is causing/irritating your cough.
  • THROAT LOZENGES give temporary relief of pain.
  • SORE MUSCLES (from coughing), treat as you normally would.
  • MEDICATIONS: ALWAYS read the labels first!
    • Talk with a local Pharmacist if unsure what to take.

Call Student Health (434.395.2102) or Urgent Care/Emergency Department if SHWC Closed:

  • IF the cough worsens or lingers more than 2 weeks.
  • IF you are unable to sleep because of coughing.
  • IF the cough effects school or work.
  • IF you have fever higher than 100.5ºF (38ºC) for more than 3 days or if medication doesn’t lower your temperature.

Seek IMMEDIATE Health Care at Student Health or Urgent Care/Emergency Department:

  • Chest pain at any time
  • Difficulty breathing not caused by nasal congestion (i.e.: shortness of breath, wheezing)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever higher than 100.5ºF (38ºC)