A sore throat is the primary symptom of pharyngitis. Pharyngitis is the inflammation of the throat (pharynx). "Pharyngitis" and "sore throat" are two terms that are often used interchangeably.
Sore throat symptoms vary depending on the cause, but may include throat pain, fever and chills, as well as general discomfort. Other sore throat signs and symptoms may include: pain or a scratchy sensation in the throat which gets worse with talking or swallowing, dry throat, difficulty swallowing, swollen and sore glands in your jaw or neck as well as red swollen tonsils. A voice may become hoarse and pus or white patches may appear on tonsils.
Tonsilitis, mononucleosis, pharyngitis, and streptococcal infection (strep throat) are the most common sore throat causes. Viral illnesses may also cause a sore throat. These include flu (influenza), mononucleosis (mono), common colds, chickenpox, measles, and croup. Bacterial infections that may cause a sore throat include: Strep throat, caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus and Whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is very important to determine if a sore throat is viral or bacterial as strep infection can cause other more serious illnesses. A test commonly referred to as a rapid strep screen can determine if it is a strep infection by taking and testing a swab of the throat. A blood test can indicate mononucleosis (mono) or an elevated white blood cell count caused by infection. Viral infections can be treated symptomatically, while strep and other types of bacterial infections require antibiotic treatment.
An infected area of tissue (abscess) in the throat can also cause a sore throat, although this is rare. Another rare cause is a condition occuring when the small cartilage "lid" covering the windpipe swells up , blocking airflow (epiglottitis). Both of these causes can block the airway, leading to a medical emergency.