There are many different illnesses and conditions that can cause a burning throat. Some are caused by infection, while others are caused by acid within the body. A variety of bacterial and viral infections, usually recognizable through other symptoms, such as congestion and headache, can cause irritation and burning in the throat. Acid reflux, which occurs when some of the contents of the stomach such as stomach acid and other solids or liquids leak back into the esophagus, can also cause a burning throat. A burning sensation could also be caused by physical injury to the throat, as could happen if something sharp or extremely hot were swallowed.
Heartburn is one of the most common causes of burning in the throat. Heartburn occurs when the contents of the stomach to leak into the esophagus, causing burning sensations and discomfort in the chest and throat. There are many different foods that can trigger these symptoms, such as alcohol, peppermint, citrus fruits or juices, and tomatoes. Heartburn can generally be treated through the use of over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors, H2 antagonists, and promotility agents. Antacids are generally basic substances that quickly neutralize the acid that causes a burning throat, while the others are slow-acting medications that can cause general relief over time.
Though antacids are very effective at relieving the discomfort associated with this burning sensation, they may actually mask a more significant problem. While simply overeating or eating an excess of a certain type of food can cause occasional heartburn, persistent heartburn may be caused by a more significant underlying condition. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux disease, can cause persistent heartburn and burning in the throat. It is more serious than occasional heartburn, though, because in addition to unpleasant symptoms such as the burning sensation, it can also involve physical damage to the esophagus. Frequent exposure to stomach acid can severely damage the esophagus.
Bacterial and viral infections can cause several different types of sore throats, including a burning throat. Such infections generally cause a more general sore throat, however; an actual burning sensation is rare. If the burning sensation is accompanied by a cough, congestion, headache, or other flu-like symptoms, it is likely that an infection of some form is causing irritation in the throat. It is far more common to suffer from a sharp pain or from itchiness or irritation when an infection is the cause of throat pain. A true burning sensation is much more commonly caused by stomach problems.