Sore Throat Causes

Viruses and bacteria are the two most common causes of an infectious sore throat. These infections may also lead to strep throat, sinus infections, or other respiratory infections. Other possible (noninfectious) causes of a sore throat include allergies, smoking, or dehydration.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

A sore throat is a very common problem seen by healthcare providers. There are a variety of situations that can cause a sore throat. Oftentimes, these reasons are separated into infectious and noninfectious causes.

Infectious Causes

Healthcare providers call a sore throat that is the result of an infection "acute infectious pharyngitis." All sorts of different organisms can cause a sore throat. The two most common are viruses and bacteria.

Viral Sore Throat

More than half of all sore throats are caused by viruses (known medically as viral pharyngitis). They are often the same viruses that cause the common cold, flu, a sinus infection (sinusitis), or other upper respiratory tract infections.
Rhinovirus infections appear to be the most common reason for a sore throat. These viruses affect up to 20 percent of people. Other viruses that can cause a sore throat include:
Specific symptoms can vary with each type of virus. Besides a sore throat, symptoms commonly seen with viral pharyngitis include fever, runny nose, nasal congestion, irritation or redness of the eyes (pink eye), cough, and/or hoarseness.
Less-common sore throat causes include Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mononucleosis) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These viruses cause sore throats in less than one percent of cases.
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Sore Throat Information

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