Is a Sore Throat Contagious?In most cases, a sore throat is contagious, as a majority of sore throats are caused by germs. Most often, these germs are transmitted through contact with infected mucus, nasal discharge, or saliva.
This can happen when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and infected droplets spray into the air. The infected mucus can land in another person's nose, throat, or eyes, and enter the body.
The germs can also spread by touching a surface or object that has infectious fluids on it. When the person then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes, the germs can be spread.
Diagnosing a Sore ThroatHealthcare providers can diagnose most causes of a sore throat through a thorough medical history and physical exam. The medical history is the part of the exam where the healthcare provider asks questions. Both the questions and physical exam help narrow down potential causes for a sore throat.
If a healthcare provider suspects strep throat, he or she will order a rapid strep test or throat culture to help with the diagnosis (see Strep Throat Diagnosis). Other tests may be recommended if certain conditions, such as mono, are a possibility.
How Is a Sore Throat Treated?Treating a sore throat depends on the cause. For example, strep throat is treated with antibiotics. These medications have been shown to decrease the length and severity of strep symptoms, and decrease the chance for complications.
On the other hand, a sore throat caused by a virus is not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. Instead, time (and the body's immune system) will cure these infections. In the meantime, a person can get relief from symptoms by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and trying any of the following:
- Pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®)
- Throat lozenges or hard candy
- Throat sprays
- Oral rinses
- Natural therapies (see Natural Relief for a Sore Throat).
(Click Sore Throat Remedies for more information about these potential treatment options, along with information on which tend to work better than others.)