What is a throat infection?
Throat, also known as pharynx, is the tube that transports food to the oesophagus and air to the larynx (or the voice box). Throat infection refers to an infection in the pharynx, experienced as pain, irritation and discomfort, especially while swallowing.
A commonly used generic term that describes the symptoms of a throat infection is ‘sore throat’, though a sore throat could result from numerous reasons, apart from infection. Sore throat is very common among children who have not yet developed resistance against the numerous viruses and bacteria.
What are the causes of the disorder?
Throat infection/sore throat is caused majorly by viruses (the most common being the influenza virus causing flu and common cold), and less frequently by bacteria.
Viral throat infection agents include:
- Influenza virus
- Measles and chicken pox virus
- Croup virus
Bacterial throat infection agents include:
- Streptococcus pyogenes (infection is called ‘Strep throat’)
- Bordetella pertussis (causing whooping cough)
- Corynebacterium diphtheria (causing Diptheria)
What one needs to know about symptoms or signs?
Symptoms of a throat infection include:
- Pain in throat; trouble swallowing
- Dryness in throat
- Hoarse voice
- Fever and chills
- Body ache
- Swollen tonsils, lymph glands
Which specialist should be consulted in case of signs and symptoms?
Those experiencing the above symptoms may consult an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
What are the screening tests and investigations done to confirm or rule out the disorder?
A throat infection is diagnosed through the following:
- Physical examination – The doctor uses a lighted instrument to view the throat, while gently feeling the jaw and neck for swollen lymph node glands.
- Throat swab – A sample of secretions is gathered by a sterile swab of the back of the throat, to be checked in the laboratory for streptococcal bacteria. This is done to differentiate bacterial and viral infections and plan treatment accordingly.
- Complete blood count – A blood sample is taken to determine the profile of total blood count to differentiate bacterial and viral infection.
What treatment modalities are available for management of the disorder?
Treatment depends on the type of infection:
- Treating bacterial throat infection – A course of antibiotics is given, which must be taken in its entirety.
- Treating viral throat infection – Viral infections are treated with self home care remedies:
- Plenty of rest; speaking less
- Sufficient fluids to prevent throat dryness and dehydration
- Saltwater gargles
- Analgesics and painkillers
How can the disorder be prevented from happening or recurring?
A viral or bacterial throat infection is highly contagious and measures must be taken to prevent the spread from infected person to another person. Infection is transmitted in form of air droplets released during coughing or sneezing or through direct contact with infected objects. Prevention strategies include:
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- Using tissues while coughing or sneezing
- Avoiding close contact and sharing of objects with infected person
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