A burning throat is a common symptom of infections and other underlying medical conditions. It can occur on its own or alongside other symptoms.

In many cases, a person can treat a burning throat at home. Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids are key for recovery.

In this article, find out about the possible causes of a burning throat and learn when to seek treatment. We also describe how to soothe the symptom with some simple home remedies.

There are many possible causes of a burning throat, including:

1. Colds and flu

a woman with a cold experiencing a Burning throatShare on Pinterest
A cold or flu may be the cause of a burning throat.

A common cause of a burning throat is a cold or flu. Viruses cause these illnesses, which affect the respiratory, or breathing, system.

Common symptoms of a cold or flu include:

The flu can cause complications, so anyone with serious symptoms should seek medical attention. These symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, seizures, and dizziness.

Learn about the differences between the cold and the flu in this article.

2. Tonsillitis

The tonsils are lumps of tissue at the back of the throat that help fight off viruses and bacteria. Tonsillitis is an infection that makes the tonsils swell.

The infection usually causes:

Tonsillitis usually clears up within 1–2 weeks. People can treat it at home with plenty of rest, fluids, over-the-counter pain medications, and throat lozenges.

3. GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when the muscle connecting the esophagus, or food pipe, to the stomach becomes too weak or relaxed.

When the muscle is not tight enough, food or stomach acid can rise into the throat and sometimes into the back of the mouth.

The main symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • bad breath
  • chest pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a burning sensation in the throat

Treatment often involves lifestyle changes, such as cutting rich or acidic foods from the diet. Some people require medication or surgery.

4. Strep throat

strep throat infection br image credit cdc dr heinz f eichenwald 1958 brShare on Pinterest
A person with strep throat may experience a burning throat, pain when swallowing, and a fever.
Image credit: CDC, Dr Heinz F Eichenwald, 1958

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes several painful symptoms.

Symptoms of strep throat may come on suddenly and include:

  • a burning throat
  • pain when swallowing
  • a fever
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • red or swollen tonsils

A doctor can diagnose strep throat by taking a throat swab and may prescribe antibiotics. A person should also get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids during recovery.

5. Mono

Infectious mononucleosis, more commonly known as mono, is a very contagious viral infection. Teenagers and young adults are most likely to get it.

Symptoms of the illness usually develop 4–6 weeks after contact with the virus. A painful or burning throat is an early symptom of mono.

Other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • extreme tiredness
  • aching muscles
  • headaches
  • a rash

It often takes 2–4 weeks to recover from mono, but some people have symptoms for months. Treatment involves resting, taking over-the-counter pain medications, and drinking plenty of fluids.

Mono spreads very easily. Doctors advise people who have it not to share foods, drinks, or toothbrushes and to avoid kissing.

6. Burning mouth syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is a pain disorder. It causes pain and a burning or tingling feeling in and around the mouth.

Other symptoms include dry mouth and a strange taste in the mouth. It can affect the lips, tongue, or roof of the mouth.

A doctor may test for underlying causes of burning mouth syndrome before making a diagnosis.

Sucking ice chips, drinking a cool drink, or chewing gum can help manage the discomfort. People may also wish to avoid things that can irritate the mouth, such as alcohol, tobacco, and spicy or acidic foods.

7. Esophagitis

Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. GERD, medication, infection, or an allergy can cause this inflammation.

Common symptoms include a burning throat, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn.

Untreated esophagitis can cause ongoing health problems, but treatment can lead to a full recovery.

One form of the inflammation is eosinophilic esophagitis. This is a chronic food allergy that causes the food pipe to become inflamed. It can be complex to diagnose, and specialists may need to work together to develop a treatment plan.

Doctors can check for eosinophilic esophagitis by taking a tissue sample from the throat or with a skin prick test or blood tests.

If a specific food is causing the reaction, cutting it from the diet often resolves the inflammation.

Depending on the medical condition responsible for a burning sensation in the throat, a person may require treatment from a doctor.

However, when the symptom is a result of a cold, flu, or tonsillitis, home remedies can be effective at treating symptoms and soothing pain.

Staying hydrated is crucial when recovering from a cold or flu, as the body needs to replace fluids lost from sweating and a runny nose. Water also helps the body function and fight off bacteria and viruses.

Drinking plenty of fluids can help stop the throat from becoming dry, which can cause irritation. To soothe the throat, try drinking a mixture of hot water, honey, and lemon.

Learn more about the research into which home remedies — honey, lemon juice, or even alcohol — are best for a sore throat.

Keeping the throat warm can also reduce soreness, as heat relaxes muscles and can soothe pain. Gently wrap a scarf around the neck to keep it warm.

The body needs time to recover, and resting is key. Taking time off work or school and reducing activity can help with recovery and prevent the spread of illnesses.

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If chest pain accompanies a burning throat, a person should speak to their doctor.

Treatment at home is usually best for tonsillitis or a cold. Other conditions may require medication.

If a burning throat lasts for more than 2 weeks, see a doctor.

More serious symptoms can accompany a burning throat. If an adult has the flu and any of the following symptoms, they may need urgent medical attention:

Adults over 65, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems should seek medical advice if they have concerns about symptoms.

Many infections and other conditions can cause a burning sensation in the throat, including colds, tonsillitis, and GERD.

Soothe the pain by keeping the throat moist and with other home remedies.

If symptoms are severe, or if home remedies are not enough to resolve them within a few weeks, see a doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment.