There are people who love to diagnose their own illness. Every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who refuses to consult a specialist regarding a health problem. Instead of seeing a professional, they tell you that they know what’s going on and diagnose the problem themselves.
In truth, there are times when it’s hard to tell one ailment apart from another. People think they know what their illness is based on the symptoms alone. What many people don’t realize, however, is that many illnesses share similar symptoms. For instance, a sore throat and tonsillitis may seem the same but they do have differences. A pulmonologist can easily tell the difference between a sore throat and tonsillitis by checking your throat. Before you grab some medicine for cough and cold, it would be good to know what’s causing that aching throat first.
Cause and Symptoms
A sore throat (pharyngitis) is characterized by pain, scratchiness, or irritation of the throat which tends to become worse whenever you swallow. Most sore throat cases are caused by a viral infection, such as a cold or influenza (flu) although in some cases, it can also be caused by bacteria. Other reasons may be an allergy or dry air. Symptoms include an itchy sensation in the throat, pain that intensifies when you swallow or talk, a dry throat and a rough, hoarse voice.
Anyone can be affected with sore throat; however, some people are more susceptible to getting a sore throat such as:
- Children and teens between the ages of 3 to 15. The type of sore throat associated with children is strep throat, which is a bacterial infection.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. This can be due to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke can irritate the throat and other respiratory organs. The use of tobacco products in general increases the risk of a person to certain types of cancer including cancer of the mouth, throat, lungs, and voice box.
- Allergies. Seasonal allergies (i.e., instance hay fever) or ongoing allergies (also known as perennial allergies) to dust, molds, or pet dander make a person more likely to suffer from a sore throat.
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the air. Those who work in certain environments, like mines or factories, and are exposed to fossil fuels and even household chemicals may experience throat irritation.
- Chronic or frequent sinus infections. Drainage from your nose can irritate your throat or spread infection to your throat.
- Living in close quarters. Those living in close proximity to other people, such as people in dorms, barracks, or classrooms, offices, day care centers, or the like are more susceptible to infections because viruses and bacteria is more easily passed from one person to another.
- Weakened immunity. Those who have a weak immunity system are more likely to get sick in general. These include people with HIV, diabetes, those undergoing chemotherapy, the elderly, and children.
Mild sore throat cases can be taken care of at home by gargling a mix of salt and warm water. Drink warm fluids such as teas and soups to soothe your throat.
If the symptoms persist, consult your doctor. Your treatment will depend on whether your sore throat infection is caused by a virus or bacteria. Depending on the cause, you might be prescribed to take some antibiotics, decongestants, or pain relievers.
Causes and Symptoms
Tonsils are tissues located at the back of your throat. They are our first line of defense when bacteria or viruses enter our body through the mouth. Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become inflamed due to either bacteria or a virus. Symptoms include fever, swollen tonsils, white or yellow patches on the tonsils, a sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, headaches, enlarged tender glands (lymph nodes in the neck), a stiff neck.
As with any sickness, some people will be more prone to tonsillitis than others.
- Children who are 5 to 15 years of age are at a higher risk for bacterial tonsillitis.
- Those who are always exposed to germs are also more likely to get tonsillitis. This includes people who are in constant close contact with other people, such as those who commute, school-age children, or those in offices.
Treatment for swollen tonsils will depend on what is causing them. If it is viral, there is no medicine needed. Drink plenty of water and take throat lozenges to soothe the pain. It’s also recommended to gargle a mixture of warm water and salt.
For those suffering from bacterial tonsillitis, such as a strep throat, you will need to take antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Do not stop taking antibiotics even if you start feeling better. If you stop treatment too soon, the bacteria can come back and may even become stronger.
For severe cases, a surgery to remove the tonsils called a tonsillectomy may be recommended by your doctor.
No matter the cause of the tonsillitis, it’s important for you to:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink a lot of fluids
- Not to skip meals even if it is difficult to swallow. Switch to a liquid diet in the meantime to get the nutrients you need
- Avoid cigarette smoke or any pollutants that may irritate your throat further
- Sleep in a room with a humidifier
- Gargle with a mixture of warm water and salt
- Take an over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen
These two illnesses can be easily prevented by not sharing your food or utensils with a sick person and by practicing good hygiene. In addition, note that while not all sore throat cases lead to tonsillitis, most tonsillitis cases do have it as a symptom. When symptoms persist, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor as doing so may just prevent the rise of other complications.