Several conditions can cause a sore throat.
Sore throats may be caused by a viral illness, such as:
- Strep throat, which usually does not occur with congestion or a cough.
- An inflammation or infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis) and sometimes the adenoids (adenoiditis).
- An infection of the tissues around the tonsils (peritonsillar abscess).
- Inflammation of the epiglottis (epiglottitis).
- Inflammation of the uvula (uvulitis).
- In rare cases, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. If you have engaged in high-risk sexual behavior, consider whether you may have gonorrhea or chlamydia. For more information, see the topic Sexually Transmitted Infections.
- Throat irritation from low humidity, smoking, air pollution, yelling, or nasal drainage down the back of the throat (post nasal drip).
- Breathing through the mouth when you have allergies or a stuffy nose.
- Stomach acid that backs up into the throat, which may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although GERD often occurs with heartburn, an acid taste in the mouth, or a cough, sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom.
- An injury to the back of the throat, such as a cut or puncture from falling with a pointed object in the mouth.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome a condition that causes extreme tiredness.
Because viral illnesses are the most common cause of a sore throat, it is important not to use antibiotics to treat them. Antibiotics do not alter the course of viral infections.