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sore throat

Sore Throat

What is it?

A sore throat is an inflammation of the throat caused by either viruses or bacteria. Allergies can produce mucus which can drip down the back of throat and make it sore, but the throat will not be red (see Symptoms and Self-Care Options below).

How do you catch it?

The infection is spread by sharing items such as drinks, eating utensils, cell phones, cigarettes, kissing, sneezing, nose blowing, and by contaminated objects passed from hand to mouth.


  • Painful, red throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Pus on tonsils
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Feeling "blah"
  • Swollen lymph nodes ("glands")

Self-Care Options for Symptoms:

Whether the sore throat is due to a virus or bacteria, the following will help to make you feel better:

  • DRINK FLUIDS Clear liquids are most soothing and help to thin out the mucus at the back of your throat. Cold drinks, popsicles and mild (not citric) juices are often preferred although some people find warmer liquids (broth, tea with honey and lemon) feel better.
  • THROAT LOZENGES give temporary relief of pain.
  • GARGLE WITH WARM SALT WATER to sooth throat and decrease swelling.
  • INCREASE REST as much as needed to get well and let your body heal.
  • PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE Wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, and properly dispose of used facial tissues.
  • DON'T SMOKE as the smoke irritates and dries the membranes that line the nose and throat.
  • MOIST HEAT COMPRESSES (i.e. washcloths moistened with warm tap water) applied to the neck help swollen glands feel better.
  • MEDICATIONS: ALWAYS read the labels first!
  • Talk with a local Pharmacist if unsure what to take.

Call Student Health (434.395.2102) or Urgent Care/Emergency Department if SHWC Closed:

  • IF you have fever higher than 100.5ºF (38ºC) for more than 3 days or if medication doesn't lower your temperature
  • IF sore throat lasts more than 3 days
  • IF you see pus on your tonsils
  • IF you develop a sore throat after being in contact with someone diagnosed as having strep throat.
  • IF sore throat seems severe and/or worsens quickly
  • IF you have a sore throat with a previous diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease, rheumatic fever or heart murmur
  • ANYTIME you are unsure of what to do

Seek IMMEDIATE Health Care at Student Health or Urgent Care/Emergency Department:

  • IF it hurts too much to swallow your saliva or medicines
  • If it becomes hard to breathe/you feel like your throat is closing up

A Note about Strep Throat:

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes only 10% of all sore throats. Strep throat can ONLY be diagnosed by a throat culture (results take 24-72 hours) that is taken by a Health Care Provider.