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When Does a Sore Throat Need Medical Attention?

By Dr. Kristie

Most sore throats are caused by a virus and will resolve on their own within five to seven days, but in some cases a sore throat can be a sign of a more serious infection such as strep or mononucleosis which needs medical treatment.

When do you need to see your doctor for a sore throat and when is it safe to simply stay home in bed? Here are some guidelines to tell you when a sore throat needs more than a little T.L.C.

What Are the Main Causes of a Sore Throat?

By far, most sore throats are viral in nature. Usually, viral sore throats cause throat pain, low grade fever, and congestion for a few days and then gradually resolve without treatment. Although most viral sore throats go away on their own, more serious viral infections such as the flu virus and mononucleosis can cause sore throat too.

Sometimes a sore throat isn’t viral at all, but caused by a bacteriamost notably strep. In other cases, sore throat isn’t due to an infection, but is related to allergies, dry air, or chronic reflux disease (GERD). In these cases, fever is usually absent. 

Note: Avoid Health Issues if your condition is Detected & Treated.

What Are Signs and Symptoms That You Need to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat?

Anytime a sore throat is associated with high fever (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), difficulty swallowing, headache, vomiting, blood in the urine, or a skin rash, it needs to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible - particularly if it’s a child. These can be symptoms of strep throat – a condition which needs antibiotic treatment.

If strep isn’t treated, it can lead to serious complications such as kidney or heart damage. Another sign that immediate medical treatment is needed for a child is drooling. Drooling and difficulty swallowing or breathing can be a sign of a life threatening condition called epiglottitis.

When to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat: Mono

A sore throat associated with enlarged, painful neck glands also needs evaluation since this can be a sign of mononucleosis. Sore throat, swollen glands, and fatigue that doesn’t resolve over a five to seven day period also needs evaluation. Mononucleosis can cause inflammation of the liver and spleen which needs close monitoring.

When to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat: The Bottom Line?

Keep these symptoms in mind when you develop a sore throat, but when in doubt, always see your doctor. Don’t take any chances with your good health.

About the Author

She is a Medical Doctor with a concentration in Family Practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and masters in Clinical Pathology.

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