Definition - What is a sore throat and difficulty swallowing?

Every German has sore throats on average several times a year, and these are often accompanied by swallowing difficulties: swallowing is made difficult by an uncomfortable scratching or even real pain.

While a mild course can heal again within a few days without significantly affecting the quality of life, a more severe infection can cause tangible difficulties in swallowing. This can even mean that those affected can eat or drink less or nothing at all.

How long such sore throats with difficulty swallowing last and how they are treated correctly depends to a large extent on the cause.

First read general information individually on the topics of sore throats and difficulty swallowing:

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  • Sore throat - what's behind it?
  • Difficulty swallowing - what are the causes?

Causes of Sore Throat and Difficulty Swallowing

If you have a sore throat, it is usually actually a throat pain. The throat extends from the level of the nose to the larynx. The symptoms can appear differently in their localization or severity.

The pain is usually caused by inflammation in the throat area. There are a wide range of causes for this inflammation, the most common by far being caused by viruses. The "cold viruses", for example so-called rhinoviruses, enter through the mouth or nose and then lodge in the mucous membrane. So that the body can fight the viruses sufficiently, the throat is supplied with better blood, among other things, so the cells of the immune system can better reach and destroy the viruses.

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Unfortunately, this inflammatory reaction and the associated increase in blood flow cause the affected areas to swell and become more sensitive to pain. When all the muscles of the so-called pharyngeal muscles contract one after the other during the swallowing process, the mucous membranes rub against each other and pain is felt.

At this point, it is recommended that you also get an overview of the cold viruses:

  • What are the so-called cold viruses?

Treatment of sore throats and difficulty swallowing

Treating a sore throat with difficulty swallowing depends on what the trigger is. Most often these are viral infections, against which there are no effective drugs to date - however, natural, herbal, active ingredients can be used. These can be used both as a tea or as a gargle solution.

Sucking lozenges is also widely known - these can also contain herbal antibacterial or viral ingredients. Menthol or Icelandic moss are also often added to throat lozenges and can alleviate the symptoms. With stronger swallowing difficulties and sore throats you can also use special lozenges with the active ingredient Lidocaine can be used. This active ingredient is used in regional anesthesia (so-called local anesthesia). In the lozenge, the active ingredient is slowly released and thus slightly anaesthetizes the most superficial layer of the pharynx. This can be used to specifically combat pain when swallowing.

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Pain medication can also be taken. Paracetamol or ibuprofen, for example, are suitable here.

Are you interested in this topic? Read our next article below: Medicines for sore throats

If bacteria are the cause of the infection, an antibiotic is usually necessary to get the infection under control. But here, too, home remedies can be used to help.

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So-called chronic pharyngitis (permanent inflammation of the throat), which can also lead to a sore throat with difficulty swallowing, is also rare. This is usually caused by environmental influences such as smoking or occupational inhalation of harmful substances. In the case of this disease, a doctor should always be consulted on a permanent basis and an individual treatment plan should be provided.

Neck pain and difficulty swallowing can also be a chronic disease, such as chronic pharyngitis. For this reason, dealing with this topic also plays an important role:

  • Chronic Pharyngitis - What to Watch Out for
  • Duration of a sore throat

Home remedies for sore throats and difficulty swallowing

In the case of bacterial infections, the bacteria can usually be fought quickly and specifically with an antibiotic. In the case of viral infections, however, there are still no drugs that could kill the pathogens - home remedies that can alleviate the symptoms and possibly even shorten the duration of the illness are all the more important.

Probably the most effective “home remedy” is drinking warm tea.This not only promotes fluid intake, which is otherwise reduced in the case of sore throats with swallowing difficulties, but also antiviral or antibacterial substances can be prepared as tea.

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It does not require any unusual plants for preparation: For example, ginger, lemon balm or garlic contain substances with strong antiviral effects. As a positive side effect, drinking warm drinks also temporarily relieves swallowing difficulties.

Another way to deliver germicides to the sore throat is by gargling. Here, the substances can also be used in larger concentrations, and you can also work with slightly salty water or tinctures such as chamomile or myrrh tincture.

Another home remedy that people like to use are warm or cold compresses. These are attached to the neck from the outside. It is up to the patient to decide for themselves whether warm or cold compresses are more beneficial. However, extreme temperatures should be avoided with both warm and cold wraps - wraps that are too warm can quickly lead to burns, and wraps that are too cold can also cause hypothermia.

You can read the above-mentioned measures against throat pain and swallowing difficulties with the help of home remedies in detail with the most important information also in the following main texts:

  • Home remedies for a sore throat
  • Gargling for a sore throat

Homeopathy for sore throats and difficulty swallowing

If antibiotics are not necessary, homeopathic remedies can also be used to accelerate the healing process.

In the case of a sudden onset of the disease, especially Aconite (monkshood) recommended.

If the pain is felt to be very sharp or sharp, preparations are often used Hepar sulfuris (sulfur liver) prescribed.

In the case of pain that primarily occurs on the right side, but can also radiate to the left side, should be included Lycopodium (Bärlappe) to be worked.

Homeopathy can have an important role in everyday life and successfully support a therapy. In addition to the homeopathic medicines linked in the text, you can also find further important information on the following main pages:

  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Homeopathy for a sore throat

Duration of the sore throat and difficulty swallowing

The duration of the sore throat with difficulty swallowing varies.

Mild colds can be accompanied by sore throats and difficulty swallowing and can go away on their own within a few days.

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However, more severe courses can also occur as part of a cold or real flu, and these often last up to ten days.

If there is a bacterial infection, the symptoms often go away within a day or two after the first antibiotic dose. Then it is particularly important that the amount of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor is taken to the end.

A total of 9 out of 10 patients are symptom-free again after one week.

You might also be interested in the following articles. Here you can acquire further knowledge, taking into account all relevant information:

  • Duration of sore throat
  • A Sore Throat - How To Get Rid Of It Quickly!

When should I see a doctor if I have a sore throat or difficulty swallowing?

As a rule, sore throats with difficulty swallowing heal on their own. However, there are some circumstances in which it is imperative to see a doctor.

A warning that should not be ignored is a high fever: a doctor should be consulted if the body temperature is higher than 38.5 ° C, especially if there is severe exhaustion, muscle and limb pain.

It is the same when the pain is so severe that it is hardly possible to eat or drink. In these cases a disease requiring antibiotics is more likely.

In principle, the sore throat and difficulty swallowing should have completely subsided after about a week. If this is not the case or if the symptoms worsen over time, a doctor should also be consulted.

A bacterial disease can rarely be recognized by the patient himself - if white dots (so-called specks) are visible on the tonsils when looking into the mouth, a visit to the doctor is also essential. However, if you as a layperson do not recognize any spots, this does not replace a visit to the doctor.

Further information can also be found at:

  • When do I have to see a doctor with a cold?
  • When should I see a doctor with a sore throat?

Accompanying symptoms with a sore throat and difficulty swallowing

Earache with sore throat and difficulty swallowing

Ear pain is not uncommon for a sore throat with difficulty swallowing. Like the sore throat, the earache can be permanent and / or occur when swallowing.

If the pain persists, this usually indicates that there is a so-called tubular catarrh: Then the so-called Eustachian tube is closed by swelling - there is a negative pressure in the middle ear and thereby a tension on the eardrum.

If the pain occurs when swallowing, it can only be a radiation of the pain to the ear without affecting the ear itself. This occurs particularly when the so-called nasopharynx, i.e. the nasopharynx, is inflamed.

In the worst case, ear pain in a sore throat with difficulty swallowing can indicate an otitis media. The fact that an otitis media develops from an existing sore throat is seldom in principle, but possible. In particular with a weakened immune system, for example in children or insufficient protection, such otitis media occurs more frequently.

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What is the so-called tubular catarrh? Read the answer to this and more about a sore throat with earache below:

  • Acute hearing loss - that's behind it
  • Sore throat with earache

Otitis media as a symptom accompanying a sore throat and difficulty swallowing

An otitis media can occur with a sore throat with difficulty swallowing. Often the first thing to do is the sore throat and difficulty swallowing, which are triggered by an infection with viruses or bacteria. If the immune system is weakened - for example in children or if there is insufficient physical restraint - the pathogens can rise through the so-called eustachian tube, which connects the nasal pharynx with the middle ear, and trigger an inflammation there.

In the case of sore throats with difficulty swallowing, the cause can also be an otitis media. Since the pain of an otitis media also radiates into the throat and neck area and can cause pain when swallowing, this can be misinterpreted by the patient as a sore throat. This is one of the reasons why the doctor always examines the ear if you have a sore throat. This so-called otoscopy (examination of the ear canal) can usually also determine whether it is an otitis media.

The cause of a sore throat and difficulty swallowing can also be the radiation of the pain in the context of an otitis media. It is therefore important at this point that you also deal with otitis media:

  • The most important thing about otitis media
  • How contagious is otitis media?

Headache with sore throat and difficulty swallowing

Headaches are probably the most common side effect of sore throats with difficulty swallowing. The headache does not have to be directly related to the sore throat or difficulty swallowing.

Since the sore throat is usually triggered by viruses or bacteria, an inflammatory reaction occurs. This mostly takes place directly in the throat, but there is also a so-called systemic inflammatory reaction throughout the body. This makes all parts of the body more sensitive to pain and therefore leads to headaches occurring more quickly than usual.

Also read general information about the symptoms of a sore throat in the following article:

  • Symptoms of a sore throat

Fever with sore throat and difficulty swallowing

If a fever occurs with a sore throat and difficulty swallowing, it is usually a more severe infection. Then there are usually other symptoms such as muscle and limb pain.

When you have a fever, the body increases its own temperature in order to be able to fight the infection better.

The following applies: Up to 38.5 ° C one speaks of so-called subfebrile, i.e. slightly higher temperature.

At temperatures above 38.5 ° C it is a solid fever, in which case physical protection should come first. If the body temperature continues to rise, a doctor should be consulted.

The main page on this topic might also be of interest to you:

  • Fever and sore throat

Mucus expectoration as an accompanying symptom with a sore throat and difficulty swallowing

When coughing and blowing your nose, smaller or larger amounts of mucus can loosen in the case of a cold, which is often associated with sore throat and swallowing pain. The color of the mucus can be helpful in determining the cause of the infection.

The following rule of thumb can be used: If the mucus is transparent, white or light overall, the cause is a viral infection or an allergic secretion.

With a yellow to dark green color, bacteria have also settled as a so-called second infection or superinfection.

However, this is only a rule of thumb that does not always have to apply. If the cause needs to be clarified in case of doubt, the doctor can order a microbiological examination in order to reliably determine the pathogen.

White coating on the tongue with sore throats and difficulty swallowing

The color of any coating on the tongue can also be used to help make a diagnosis. White coating can indicate serious illnesses such as diphtheria or fungal colonization of the tongue, but there is usually nothing to worry about.

A white coating on the tongue is common with a cold and usually does not need to be further investigated. It is usually caused by mucus that settles on the tongue, especially at night.

The mucus consists of secretions from the glands of the oral mucosa, in which dead cells and also foreign bodies - such as pathogens - are enclosed.

What are the causes of a plaque on the tongue? Find out this and much more about the tongue coating at:

  • What is the meaning of the tongue coating?

Bloody sputum with sore throat and difficulty swallowing

In addition to differentiating whether the sputum is yellow, white or greenish, bloody sputum can also occur. A strong distinction must be made here whether it is nasal secretions or coughed up mucus.

If small amounts of blood appear in the nasal secretions, it is usually blood from damaged small vessels that burst when you blow your nose. This small bleeding usually stops on its own and does not require further investigation.

If blood appears in the coughed up secretion, a doctor should be consulted. Here, too, when coughing, small vessels can be damaged and bleed - however, other causes, such as tumor diseases, can be behind this much more often.

You should also take nosebleeds seriously and, if necessary, clarify the cause. To find out what's behind a nosebleed, read also:

  • Epistaxis
  • Causes of nosebleeds

Sore throat and difficulty swallowing during pregnancy

In principle, swallowing difficulties and sore throats can also occur during pregnancy. The fact that these may even occur more frequently is due to the fact that the immune system can be weakened in phases by the pregnancy.

If a sore throat with difficulty swallowing occurs during pregnancy, these can be treated in the same way as outside of pregnancy. However, it should be ensured that when taking medication, a doctor or pharmacist is informed beforehand whether the medication can be taken during pregnancy.

In the case of lollipops with herbal active ingredients, the instruction leaflet should also ensure that they are allowed to be taken during pregnancy.

In principle, of course, you should be more careful with illnesses during pregnancy than with non-pregnant people. A doctor should therefore be consulted more quickly if the symptoms are severe or do not improve over the course of time.

Pregnant women should also make sure that they are drinking enough fluids and food despite a sore throat. In addition to warm tea, which can also relieve the symptoms of a sore throat, soups or smoothies can be ideal for eating.

After this brief insight into the subject of "sore throats during pregnancy", it is also beneficial for you to read the following article:

  • Sore throat in pregnancy

Diagnosis of a sore throat and difficulty swallowing

The diagnosis of a sore throat with difficulty swallowing is of course primarily made by the patient himself.

Nevertheless, a doctor can help here: By looking into the throat, the trained eye can usually quickly determine whether it is a bacterial infection, for which antibiotic therapy should then be initiated.

Ear, nose and throat specialists can also use special devices to assess the upper nasal pharynx and the lower pharynx up to the larynx for more difficult questions. Such an examination is carried out by the specialist, but fortunately it is usually not necessary.

Recommendation from the editor

Further information that may be of interest to you:

  • Everything you need to know about the common cold
  • Duration of a cold
  • Sore throat when swallowing
  • Exercise for a sore throat
  • Causes of difficulty swallowing

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