Smoking, allergies, infections, and mouth breathing can cause a persistent sore throat. It may also stem from underlying conditions, such as acid reflux or, rarely, throat cancer.
A persistent sore throat can interfere with sleep and daily activities, affect overall well-being, and raise concerns about underlying health issues.
While occasional sore throats are common and often resolve independently, a persistent sore throat that lasts for an extended period can indicate an underlying condition that requires attention. A person should contact a doctor if they have a sore throat for longer than 5–10 days.
This article examines common causes of persistent sore throat, medical treatments, and at-home remedies.
Smoking irritates the sensitive tissues of the throat, potentially leading to a sore throat that will not go away.
Smog and air pollution can cause similar issues to inhaling tobacco. Individuals living or working in environments with poor air quality may experience a persistent sore throat, coughing, and other asthma-like symptoms.
Allergens may include pollen, chemicals, food, and drinks. People with pollen allergies, or hayfever, commonly experience itchy eyes, a runny nose, postnasal drip, and throat irritation when the pollen count is high.
Postnasal drip refers to excess mucus draining down the back of the nasal passage into the throat. This can cause a persistent sore throat.
Continuous mouth breathing — particularly during sleep — can contribute to a persistent sore throat.
When a person breathes through their mouth instead of their nose, it can dry and irritate the throat tissues. This can result in discomfort, scratchiness, and pain. Individuals who breathe with their mouth open during sleep may notice a dry mouth sensation upon waking.
Viral and bacterial infections
Viral and bacterial infections are common causes of a persistent sore throat. Viruses, such as those responsible for the common cold or flu, can cause viral pharyngitis and are the
While less common, bacterial infections, such as strep throat, can result in a severe sore throat. Other symptoms include:
The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis, also called mono. It can result in a long lasting infection and flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
Acid reflux is a condition characterized by the weakening of a muscle at the top of the stomach, causing the leakage of stomach acid into the esophagus. This backflow of acid can cause a painful burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn. It can also come up into the throat itself, known as laryngopharyngeal reflux.
In addition to heartburn, acid reflux can cause a persistent sore throat. Continuous exposure of the sensitive tissues in the throat to stomach acid can result in irritation, inflammation, and discomfort.
Alongside a persistent sore throat, throat or laryngeal cancer can cause the following symptoms:
- hoarseness or voice changes
- pain when swallowing
- blood in saliva
However, it is important to note that this is a rare cause of persistent sore throat, and most people with this symptom should not worry about throat cancer.
A person with a sore throat may have the following symptoms:
- throat discomfort, particularly when swallowing
- a dry, scratchy sensation in the throat
- redness at the back of the mouth
- bad breath
- a mild cough
- swollen lymph glands in the neck
Treatment for a persistent sore throat depends on the underlying cause. The following are some potential treatment options based on common causes:
- Bacterial infections: People can take antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin.
- Viral infections: Most viral sore throats do not require specific medical treatment.
- Allergies: People can try avoiding allergens that trigger symptoms and use antihistamines and nasal sprays.
- Acid reflux: People can make dietary changes to avoid trigger foods and eat smaller meals. Medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers may also reduce stomach acid production.
- Environmental irritants: Minimizing exposure, using a humidifier, avoiding smoke or strong odors, and ensuring proper ventilation in living spaces may help.
- Mouth breathing: Saline nasal sprays or rinses can help moisturize and clear the nasal passages, promoting easier breathing through the nose. Consultation with an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be necessary to determine if surgical intervention or other corrective measures are required.
- Throat cancer: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy are potential options depending on the cancer stage and other factors.
In addition to medical treatments, home remedies may provide temporary relief and help alleviate the discomfort of a persistent sore throat. Here are some to try:
- Saltwater gargle: Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
- Honey and warm water: Add 1 teaspoon of honey to warm water or herbal tea. Sip on this mixture to soothe the throat.
- Warm liquids: Drinking warm liquids such as herbal teas and clear broths can temporarily relieve and help moisturize the throat.
- Throat lozenges or sprays: Over-the-counter throat lozenges or sprays can numb and soothe the throat.
- Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or taking a hot shower can help relieve congestion and soothe the throat.
Discover more ways to relieve a sore throat.
If a sore throat lasts longer than 5–10 days, an individual should speak with a doctor. However, they should seek immediate medical attention if other symptoms include a high fever, throat swelling that impairs breathing or swallowing, or severe pain.
There are various potential causes of a persistent sore throat, including bacterial and viral infections, allergies, acid reflux, environmental irritants, mouth breathing, and throat cancer.
Identifying the underlying cause of the sore throat is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach.
If a person has a persistent sore throat lasting longer than 5–10 days, they should contact a doctor for an evaluation and to discuss treatment options.