Sore throats are a very common childhood ailment, and may be caused by several different things. Most sore throats occur during the winter or early spring. It is important to understand the different causes of sore throats, as some sore throats may be relatively harmless, while others may potentially be life-threatening.
Recognizing Viral Causes
Many viruses may cause pain and swelling of the throat. Most of the viruses that cause a sore throat, such as the common cold virus, also cause upper respiratory infections. These types of viruses often cause other symptoms, such as runny nose, body aches, and fevers. Other viruses that cause sore throats also include the flu virus, adenovirus, enterovirus, and the Epstein-Barr virus. These viruses may cause skin rashes, diarrhea, and pain in the roof of the mouth in addition to the sore throat. Supportive treatments may be necessary when sore throats are caused by certain viruses to prevent dehydration and other complications. Viral sore throats may be prevented with frequent hand washing and good hygienic practices.
Recognizing Bacterial Causes
The most common bacterial cause of a sore throat is the bacteria Group A Streptococcus, although other bacteria may also cause sore throats. When a sore throat is caused by the bacteria, it is commonly called strep throat. Strep throat may also cause a high fever, swollen glands, swelling of the uvula, and red spots on the roof of the mouth. Sore throats caused by bacteria must be treated with antibiotics to avoid further complications.
Eliminating Environmental Causes
Sore throats may also be caused by allergies or very dry air. These environmental causes are especially common during the winter in cold areas where heat is used. Heating ducts may harbor allergens that are released into the air during the first uses of the heat for the year. Heat may also remove moisture from the air, causing a sore throat when children breathe through the mouth. Using a humidifier and instructing children to breathe through the nose can help to prevent sore throats that are caused by dry air.