Scratchy Throat in Adults & Babies: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Scratchy Throat?

Scratchy or sore throats are not painful yet they are the most typical reasons why people pay their doctors a visit. Cooking up some home-made remedy such as a bowl of chicken soup or a cup of green tea is often recommended.

Scratchy throat leads to a dry, itchy feeling coupled with a dry cough and lumpy feeling at the back of one’s throat. While suffering from this condition, people find it painful to swallow food that is often accompanied with a scratchy and irritable feeling.

What Causes Scratchy Throat in Babies & Newborns?

Numerous health conditions and diseases such as common cold, flu, chicken pox, and measles are some of the microbial ailments that can cause scratchy throat. Some of the common causes that lead to a sore throat in infants and new born babies are:

  • Advanced case of tonsillitis (infected tonsil glands due to some viral infection)
  • Viral infections such as cold, flu, measles, Chickenpox & croup
  • Bacterial infections such as streptococcus (strep), whooping cough & diphtheria.
  • Irritants in air such as passive smoking, pet dander, dust, pollen from grass, trees or ragweed
  • Gingivostomatitis, hand, foot & mouth disease

What Causes Scratchy Throat in adults?

The major contributors that can cause scratchy throat in adults have been discussed below:

  • Allergies: During the summers, the most common causes are allergic reactions to certain elements. The irritation causing factors are dust-mites, pet dander, molds, and even pollen. If inhaled accidentally, these agents can trigger a serious case of allergic reaction.
  • Laryngitis: Overuse of alcohol, smoking or certain factors that are caused by viral infections often causes Laryngitis that generally lasts for several days. It is one of the most common cases among people who sing or excessively use their voice as a form of communication. It should be kept in mind that acute cases of voice box irritation can be some sort of resulting factor caused by cancer.
  • Strep throat: Caused due to bacterial infection left untreated for quite some time. In case the symptoms persist or proper care is not taken, this may result in further infection in the throat ultimately leading to other complications in the body. Although more prevalent among children, it affects adults too.
  • Irritants: Excessive pollutants in the air than the permissible limits can lead to serious cases of throat irritations. Excessive use of tobacco products, smoking and even fumes from certain volatile chemicals can also lead acute cases of a scratchy throat.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: GERD is a digestive disorder that results in the backward motion of the contents of the stomach. In this condition, elements like stomach acid, undigested food substances come back to the esophagus or the food pipe. One of the common problems due to this disease is the irritated or scratchy throat syndrome.
  • Tumors: Cancerous formations or tumors in the tongue, throat, or larynx can also lead to the scratchy throat syndrome.

Symptoms of Scratchy Throat

Symptoms usually vary as per its causes. Some of the common symptoms are:

In infants

  • Throat appears to be bright red in color or dotted with pus
  • Difficulty in swallowing food items & other substances
  • Difficulties while breathing
  • Sudden drop in the urge to have food
  • Dehydration leading to reduction in the frequency of urination
  • Excessive drooling
  • Stiffness in the neck & shoulders

In adults

  • Throat Pain or itchy feeling
  • Difficulty in swallowing, drinking water & juices
  • Strain on the voice box due to pain while speaking
  • Swollen & sore tonsil glands
  • Swollen muscles around the jaw & neck
  • Pus filled patches on the tonsils
  • Muffled or husky voice

Diagnosis for Scratchy Throat

Diagnosis of the scratchy throat can be carried out through the following processes:

  • Physical examination using a light instrument around ear & nasal passages to gently feel the neck for checking swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Rapid strep test (gives out accurate results in a matter of minutes)
  • Throat Swab or throat culture (Test conducted over a period o 24 to 48 hours)
  • The best possible approach is to conduct a full screening of the patient’s blood

Scratchy Throat

Sore Throat Treatment

Depending on the causes, doctors accordingly advise as what to do for a sore throat. Some of these are:

  • Medications: Viral infections last for 5 to 7 days and in order to ease the pain and the fever, people are often advised to take acetaminophen and other mild pain relievers. However, its use should be as prescribed or as per the label directions to avoid any kind of side effects. Other OTC medications that can be included are ibuprofen (Advil, Pediatric, etc.), Aspirin, etc. However, for recovering from flu-like symptoms or chicken pox should never be given aspirin.
  • Bacterial Infection: In cases of a sore throat due to bacterial infections, doctors prescribe the patient an antibiotic to cure of the effects in a matter of a few days. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor even if the symptoms have disappeared completely. In an event of non-completion of the entire course, there are risks like rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.
  • Alternative Home remedies: There are several herbal remedies and alternative medicines that are known to treat a sore throat without any side-effects at all. These include:
    • Slipper Elm
    • Herbal Teas
    • Lozenges
    • Sprays
    • Licorice root
    • Honeysuckle Flower
    • Marshmallow root

When to visit a doctor?

It is advised to visit a doctor if the child is below 6 months and is a sore throat along with a fever of over 100 degrees. Although it is not a matter of emergency, if one has been suffering from severe and persistent (chronic) a sore throat, one should consult a doctor. Moreover, in cases of epiglottis due to HIB vaccine, one needs to visit a doctor immediately. It is an infection on the flap of the throat tissue preventing liquids or food to go down the windpipe. It can also lead to difficulty in breathing.

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