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What Causes Throat Inflammation?

Throat inflammation can stem from infections like the common cold, strep throat, or environmental irritants such as smoke. Allergies and acid reflux also frequently inflame the delicate tissues. Accompanied by vivid images, our article breaks down each cause, helping you identify and soothe your symptoms. What might be triggering your throat discomfort? Join us to uncover the answers.
Madeleine A.
Madeleine A.

Throat inflammation can be caused by a throat infection such as strep throat, allergies, and postnasal drip. In addition, pharyngitis, an inflammation of the pharynx, can cause also cause throat inflammation. Typically, throat inflammation is temporary, however, certain conditions such as a seasonal allergy can contribute to chronic throat inflammation. Acid reflux can also cause inflammation of the throat because stomach acid is highly irritating to the sensitive tissues in the throat.

Before treatment can begin for throat inflammation, the cause needs to be determined. When a bacteria infection is present, antibiotics are typically the treatment of choice. For example, strep throat is caused by a bacteria and usually requires antibiotic treatment. After the entire course of antibiotics have been consumed, throat inflammation typically subsides. When strep is the offending organism, patients need to make sure they have finished all their medication to prevent rheumatic fever, a strep complication.

Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, can cause severe throat inflammation.
Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, can cause severe throat inflammation.

When post nasal drip causes throat inflammation, antihistamines can be helpful in stopping mucus from dripping down the throat. Antihistamines, however, cause dry mouth, drowsiness, and urinary retention. They should only be used on a temporary basis, and never in combination with other medications unless approved by the physician. In addition, anti-inflammatory medications are frequently recommended for inflammation of the throat to help with swelling and to relieve pain.

A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.

Certain allergic reactions can cause throat inflammation. Rarely, these allergic reactions can cause a life-threatening condition in which the throat closes up completely. This is sometimes seen in those who have peanut allergies or those who allergic to shellfish. In these patients, emergency treatment is warranted to reduce the risk of a respiratory arrest. People who have life-threatening allergies sometimes carry medication that can help reduce allergic risks when taken at the first sign of a reaction.

Seasonal allergies may cause throat inflammation.
Seasonal allergies may cause throat inflammation.

Keeping the throat moist with non-caffeinated beverages can help reduce inflammation and irritation. Tea with honey and nectars are good choices, as is plain water. Caffeinated beverages can cause mild dehydration, dry up throat tissues and contribute to pain and swelling of the throat. Dissolving a throat lozenge, cough drop, or a piece of hard candy can soothe an irritated, inflamed throat and minimize the risk of difficulty swallowing.

Throat lozenges are soothing for an inflamed throat.
Throat lozenges are soothing for an inflamed throat.

Other than pain and difficulty swallowing, an inflamed throat frequently has other characteristics. These include a deep red color, and sometimes red or white spots. The white spots are typically caused by a bacterial infection and the accumulation of pus and other debris that gets trapped in the tonsils. In addition, tonsillitis or inflammation of the tonsils is often present. Although home and natural remedies can help, a health care provider needs to evaluate an inflamed throat to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

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    • Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, can cause severe throat inflammation.
      By: M.studio
      Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, can cause severe throat inflammation.
    • A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
      By: pixelcaos
      A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
    • Seasonal allergies may cause throat inflammation.
      By: ajkkafe
      Seasonal allergies may cause throat inflammation.
    • Throat lozenges are soothing for an inflamed throat.
      By: Mark Herreid
      Throat lozenges are soothing for an inflamed throat.
    • A throat infection, such as strep throat, can cause throat inflammation.
      By: DDRockstar
      A throat infection, such as strep throat, can cause throat inflammation.
    • A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
      By: Farina3000
      A doctor may recommend tonsil removal if tonsils are infected on a regular basis.
    • Throat inflammation caused by strep can be treated with antibiotics.
      By: NorGal
      Throat inflammation caused by strep can be treated with antibiotics.
    • Post-nasal drip can cause throat inflammation.
      By: Halfpoint
      Post-nasal drip can cause throat inflammation.