The term ‘sore throat’ describes the symptom of pain at the back of the mouth. Clinical descriptions of acute sore throat include:

– Acute Tonsillitis: inflammation of the tonsils

Acute tonsillitis affects mainly the sides of the throat and can be caused by viruses and/or bacteria. There is fever, halitosis, pain on swallowing, enlarged red inflamed tonsils with exudates, tender swollen neck glands and the patient feels generally sick and unwell.

– Acute pharyngitis: inflammation of the part of the throat behind the soft palate (oropharynx)

Acute pharyngitis, which affects the centre of the back of the throat as well as the sides, is usually caused by a virus. It tends to give milder symptoms and typically results in a URTI with nasal irritation and congestion. Glandular fever caused by the Epstein Barr virus is an exception, however, and causes symptoms like very severe tonsillitis.

Infections caused by bacteria or fungi require antimicrobial treatment, which varies depending on the specific infective organism. Acute infections result in the production of pus, which is commonly thick yellow-green in colour and may have an unpleasant smell. When an infection is seen or suspected, a sample is therefore sent for laboratory analysis.

After inserting a sterile tongue depressor, a fine sterile cotton bud probe is inserted into the throat and rubbed over the tissue to be sampled. It is then immediately removed for storage in preservative for transfer to the laboratory.

Examination under the microscope (microscopy) enables the presence and type of infective organism to be diagnosed. Subsequently, growing the organism on a special gel (culture) and applying various drugs allows the specific antimicrobial agent required to kill the infective organisms to be determined.

Contact Dr. Barbara Karin Vela if you develop a sore throat that does not go away after several days or if you have a high fever, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, or a rash. Always seek medical care right away if you have Pharyngitis and trouble breathing.