Ice chips for sore throat

Is A Sore Throat The First Symptom Of The Flu?

It’s a feeling all too familiar to most of us — that scratchy, uncomfortable sensation in your throat that alerts you that you may be getting sick. But is your sore throat just seasonal allergies? A common cold? Or could it be a sore throat from the flu?

Consider the time of year. During flu season, which lasts from October through May, a sore throat can signal more than just a cold. For that reason, it’s important to understand sore throat flu symptoms and sore throat causes.

Sore Throat Flu Symptoms

Also known as pharyngitis, a sore throat happens when the tissues of the pharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth) become inflamed. The symptoms of the common cold and the flu are similar, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. But flu symptoms are generally more severe and develop much faster.

Sore throat flu symptoms are often accompanied by a fever or chills, headache, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, and fatigue. If your symptoms start to add up, then it’s time to see your health care provider.

If you want to avoid a sore throat from flu — and all the other unpleasant symptoms that come along with the illness — we recommend getting a flu shot annually. It’s quick, affordable, and the surest way to stay healthy during flu season.

Sore Throat Causes

Most sore throats that accompany a cold or the flu are caused by a virus. Occasionally, sore throat causes can include a bacterial infection, one example of this is strep throat.

Symptoms of strep throat are like those of an ordinary sore throat, but here are signs it could be strep:

  • White patches on the tonsils or back of the throat

  • Just a sore throat without a cough or cold symptoms such as runny nose or congestion

  • Swollen lymph nodes (under your jaw or in the neck)

  • Red and swollen tonsils sometimes accompanied by white patches or streaks

  • Tiny red spots on the back of the roof of the mouth

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing

  • Headaches

  • Nausea or vomiting; children sometimes complain of a tummy ache

  • A rash, known as Scarlet Fever

If these symptoms last more than two days, you should see your doctor for a strep test, which is a simple throat swab.

This is important, as strep throat can sometimes lead to rheumatic fever. If you test positive for strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics for treatment and to help reduce spreading the illness.

In addition to cold and flu viruses and bacterial infections, sore throat causes can include dry winter air, which irritates the throat, and allergies, which can cause inflammation and irritation.

Here are some ideas for treating a sore throat at home:

  • Using a humidifier

  • Avoiding smoke and other irritants

  • Limiting talking, which may lead to laryngitis

  • Trying a throat lozenge

  • Drinking lots of fluids

  • Taking ibuprofen or other pain relievers

  • Sucking on an ice pop

We have more suggestions for at-home sore throat remedies here.

But if you suspect you have a sore throat from flu, then find your nearest GoHealth Urgent Care.

No appointment is necessary, and you can check in online — which means faster relief from your sore throat symptoms.

See our prices on co-pays and same-day visits, with and without insurance.

GoHealth Urgent Care partners with these regional healthcare providers:

  • Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in New York
  • Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in San Francisco
  • Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Portland & Vancouver
  • Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care in Connecticut
  • Mercy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Arkansas, Springfield, St. Louis & Oklahoma
  • Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina

Can I get a flu shot if I have a cold or a sore throat?

By Emily Sakzewski

Updated May 28, 2019 12:07:50

With Australia on track for a killer flu season, families, schools and workplaces are heeding the advice of experts and organising their flu shots early.

That might raise a few questions, such as:

  • Where is the best place to get a flu shot?
  • What if I’m sick on the day of my appointment?
  • Why do they ask if I have an egg allergy?
  • Why do I feel sick for days after?

Here are some answers.

Can I still get a flu shot if I’m sick?

Once you have booked your appointment, you are required to fill out a screening questionnaire, a standard list of questions recommended by the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

The questionnaire is mandatory because a needle cannot be administered without your express consent. As part of it, an administrator will generally ask how you are feeling.

But it can be hard to know whether it is worth mentioning your runny nose (especially if you don’t have time to reschedule the appointment).

It all depends on how sick you are: a runny nose, cough, and aches and pains will not prevent you from receiving the vaccine, but having a high fever will.

“If you are ‘systemically unwell’ or have a fever of above 38.5C, it’s medically recommended that we hold off,” Dr Clements said.

However, an administrator can choose not to give you the vaccine if they suspect you are ill, even if you say you are fine.

Some vaccines are better suited than others

Michael Clements, a GP and spokesperson for the Australia Medical Association Queensland, said there is a difference between the flu vaccines you pay for, and those that are free.

Dr Clements said the best vaccine is the free one offered by the Government to those who are eligible — that is, people aged over 65, under the age of five, and those with chronic illnesses.

These vaccines are considered superior by doctors because they are specially purchased by the Government to meet the specific needs of those groups.

For example, those aged over 65 need a stronger vaccine compared to the rest of the population.

The vaccine for the rest of the population — available from a GP, pharmacy, or offered by an employer — can be provided by different brands through private contracts.

Dr Clements said, vaccines are considered inferior for over-65s, children and the chronically ill, they are completely fine for the fit and healthy population.

It’s important to note that all influenza vaccines administered in Australia are approved by the Therapeutical Goods Administration.

What do eggs have to do with it?

The questionnaire will also ask if you are allergic to eggs, among other things. That is because the flu vaccine may contain residual egg protein because it is grown in eggs.

In fact, all influenza vaccines available in Australia are prepared from purified inactivated influenza virus that has been cultivated in embryonated hens’ eggs.

The vaccine is grown in eggs because a virus cannot reproduce on its own, it has to infect a cell and take over that cell, and tell the generic material in that cell to make new viruses.

Emeritus Professor and Burnet Institute Visiting Fellow Greg Tannock, who sits on the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC), said “about 90 per cent of influenza vaccines use, as starting materials, influenza viruses grown in the allantoic sac of 10 to 11-day-old fertile eggs.”

Other vaccines grown in eggs are:

  • Pandemic inactivated influenza vaccine (H1N1, bird or swine flu vaccines)
  • Yellow Fever vaccine
  • Q fever vaccine

Luckily not many people are allergic to eggs.

While it is relatively common in infants — 8.9 per cent having a proven allergy to raw egg — most kids outgrow it by the time they reach primary school, although it can sometimes persist into adult life.

Over the past few decades, the amount of egg protein used in the vaccine has been greatly reduced to less than just 1 microgram (one-millionth of a gram) per dose.

Severe allergic responses are also very rare.

According to ASCIA, there might be some mild and occasional side-effects such as local itching, mild hives, throat irritation, wheezing or abdominal pain — but the risk of anaphylaxis is very low, estimated at 1.35 per million doses.

“They certainly do not constitute a reason for abandoning vaccination, because of the major public health consequences of influenza epidemics.

Dr Clements said there are relatively few allergies that would prevent an influenza vaccine.

If you have an anaphylactic reaction to eggs, you must get your vaccine in a medical facility where they can monitor you afterwards and, on the off chance it is needed, have access to resuscitation medication.

Feeling sick the day after a vaccine? Good

Dr Clements said this is a sign the immunisation is working.

“We know that around 10 per cent of people who have the vaccine will feel a bit off for a couple of days, and they may feel a fever and aches and pains, and may feel a bit worse for it — but what they’re actually feeling is their body’s immune system working — and that’s a good sign,” he said.

“The feeling normally only lasts for a couple of days and it’s the body’s sign it’s fighting the virus.”

Dr Clements said it was important to remember the influenza vaccine can be up to only 60 per cent effective, and even then it wears off in just four to six months.

But he said it is still important as many people as possible get vaccinated because that percentage is still worthwhile.

“Every day now I’m diagnosing people with influenza, and for most people it’s a nuisance but for some its a terminal diagnosis,” he said.

“So I tell my patients; even if you’re not getting the needle for you, get it for your grandma or niece or nephew.”

What’s the go with lollipops?

The little treat you leave with after a jab provides no physical or psychological benefit. So where does this come from?

“It’s a mix of tradition, bribery and fun,” Dr Clements said.

“There is a little bit of evidence for sugar as pain relief for children, and that’s probably where the tradition started … but it’s mostly bribery.

“Children three and above normally respond well to bribery … and most of us don’t tend to grow up.”

Topics: vaccines-and-immunity, health, pharmaceuticals, doctors-and-medical-professionals, coughs-and-colds, australia

First posted May 28, 2019 07:56:33

Self Care for a Sore Throat

From your home to the doctor’s office

Sometimes a sore throat can be the first sign of a cold coming on. Other times it can be one of the main symptoms you experience — like those times when you feel as if you’re swallowing a scouring pad.

In most cases you can take care of your sore throat at home. One of the best treatments is to slow down, take care of yourself and soothe your throat.

“People tend to look for a quick fix when they are feeling ill, and hope the doctor will be able to prescribe a medication to get them feeling better more quickly,” says Jennifer S. Earvolino, MD, an internal medicine doctor at Rush.

“Most sore throats, however, are caused by viruses. In those cases, antibiotics are not necessary and can cause unwanted side effects. We do not want to treat someone with antibiotics unless we have confirmed the infection is bacterial, because antibiotics won’t work on a virus and could cause other problems later.”

The overuse of antibiotics in our society has contributed to the emergence of a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Earvolino explains.

“This is why we see so many headlines about diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. Too many people are taking antibiotics when they don’t need to,” she says.

Soothing the soreness

  • Gargle with salt water
  • Take throat lozenges, following directions provided by the manufacturer. Try sugar-free varieties to keep the sugar and calories to a minimum.
  • Use throat sprays that have analgesic qualities, following directions provided by the manufacturer

Other things to try

  • Warm liquids, which can be soothing
    • Drink warm liquids like herbal teas
    • Eat soup
  • Cold foods can be soothing, too
    • Dissolve ice chips in your mouth
    • Eat popsicles
    • Eat cold desserts, like gelatin, pudding or ice cream

If your sore throat continues to be painful, watch for these symptoms:

  • White pus-like patches on tonsils
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever
  • Sore throat without a cough

In most cases you can take care of your sore throat at home. One of the best treatments is to slow down, take care of yourself and soothe your throat.

If you have a number of these symptoms and “strep” throat (caused by group A streptococcus bacteria) appears to be the cause, your doctor can provide a rapid test that looks for the presence of the bacteria. The test can be done in the office, and you can have the results within about 5 minutes.

If the presence of the Group A streptococcus bacteria is confirmed, you doctor will prescribe a treatment for you.

“Most sore throats get better with time, and you should be on the mend in about a week,” says Earvolino. “If you don’t start to see an improvement after a week, or if your symptoms worsen, you should contact your doctor.”

The 11 Best Natural Remedies for a Sore Throat

1. Sage and echinacea

Think of sage as a super multitasker. According to the NIH, it’s been used as an herbal remedy for all kinds of ailments since ancient times in Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

There’s also echinacea, and it’s all over the pharmacy in multiple forms — including extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, and ointments — for good reason. There is research that shows that sage and echinacea together make quite the dynamic duo.

In one study, researchers looked at acute sore throats in 154 patients. They divided them into two groups: one that took a chlorhexidine-lidocaine treatment and one that took a sage-echinacea spray. In the end, the all-natural group fared slightly better, without any negative side effects.Schapowal A, et al. (2009). Echinacea/sage or chlorhexidine/lidocaine for treating acute sore throats: a randomized double-blind trial. DOI:10.1186/2047-783x-14-9-406

2. Licorice root

While Twizzlers and Red Vines may not keep the pain away, the root of the licorice shrub may help with your sore throat. We recommend brewing it up in a pot of tea.

Not only will the warmth feel good; it’s effective. While it’s been a minute since this research was released, we like it: one study found that licorice root was as effective as ketamine in soothing the throats of patients after surgery, as long as they gargled with it before going under.Argwal A, et al. (2009). An evaluation of the efficacy of licorice gargle for attenuating postoperative sore throat: A prospective, randomized, single-blind study. DOI: 10.1213/ane.0b013e3181a6ad47

A 2013 study confirmed the earlier results. In fact, in patients about to go under, gargling with licorice root reduced the chances of getting a sore throat by half.Ruetzler K, et al. (2013). A randomized, double-blind comparison of licorice versus sugar-water gargle for prevention of postoperative sore throat and postextubation coughing. DOI: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e318299a650

3. Honey

This sore throat remedy has been in rotation since ancient times. Adding raw honey to warm water or tea is considered a steadfast treatment for a scratchy throat.

While this research on honey is a little older, we’re digging the results. One study showed that honey was more effective than cough suppressants for preventing coughing at night.Paul IM, et al. (2007). Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. DOI: 10.1001/archpedi.161.12.1140

Even better, you probably already have a jar kicking around in your kitchen. So dig out that squeezy bear bottle and add a dollop to your mug, as science supports the use of this throat coat.

4. Marshmallow root

While not exactly a prescription for s’mores — we wish! — the mucilage in marshmallow root has been a proven remedy for scratchy throats. In fact, it’s been soothing sore throats for thousands of years.

A 2013 study on mice found that lozenges with marshmallow root were safe and effective, though few studies have been conducted on humans.Benbassat N, et al. (2013). Development and evaluation of novel lozenges containing marshmallow root extract.

5. Slippery elm

The bark of the elm tree has been used as an herbal medicine by Native Americans for hundreds of years. It’s commonly used to treat coughing, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal issues.Joo YE. (2014). Natural product-derived drugs for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. DOI: 10.5217/ir.2014.12.2.103

It’s also helpful when it comes to soothing the throat because it contains mucilage, a substance that becomes gel-like when mixed with water. Drink it in a tea to coat the throat and find relief.

You probably won’t have slippery elm lying around the house, but it’s worth hitting a health or convenience store to keep a supply handy when a scratchy throat persists. However, it’s important to note that slippery elm is at risk of overharvesting in some areas, so always make sure to purchase from a sustainably harvested source. The abovementioned marshmallow root works in much the same way as a demulcent, and can also be used in its place.

6. Chamomile

A warm cup of tea doesn’t just feel cozy. Research shows it’s actually good for you, too. One older study found that inhaling chamomile tea could reduce cold symptoms, which includes that painful sore throat of yours.Srivastava JK, et al. (2011). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. DOI: 10.3892/mmr.2010.377

7. Humidifier

Liz Lemon from 30 Rock knew the virtue of a humidifier. These help add moisture to the air, which can soothe a swollen nose and throat that often accompanies a cold.

No humidifier nearby? Close the bathroom door and take a long steam shower — make sure you breathe in deeply.

8. Ice cream, fro-yo, and popsicles (oh my!)

Oh, happy day! Health experts like the Mayo Clinic suggest eating soft cold foods, or frozen foods to help ease the pain of scratchy throats.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have cart blanche to down a quart of mint chocolate chip, but, hey, it’s rare to hear the advice that ice cream will do you good, so you might as well take advantage with a few scoops.

9. Gargling with salt water

According to the American Cancer Society, rinsing your mouth on the regular with a salt and baking soda mixture (1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt mixed in 1 quart water) will help prevent infections and help your throat feel better.

You can also gargle with salt water multiple times per day. Try a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon and 1 cup warm water.

In case this seems too good to be true, it’s not. An older study found that gargling with salt water on a daily basis decreased the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth.Rupesh S, et al. (2010). Comparative evaluation of the effects of an alum-containing mouthrinse and a saturated saline rinse on the salivary levels of Streptococcus mutans. DOI: 10.4103/0970-4388.73780

A 2013 study also found that those who gargled with salt water were less likely to have infections in the upper respiratory tract.Emamian MH, et al. (2013). Respiratory tract infections and its preventive measures among Hajj Pilgrims, 2010: A nested case control study.

10. Whiskey

Shots! Just kidding. While the evidence for this one is purely anecdotal, some claim that adding water to whiskey and gargling it will numb the throat and soothe irritation. And if you end up swallowing some in the process, well, it can be our little secret.

11. Rest

This cannot be emphasized enough. Taking a break and resting is one of the best ways to feel better faster. Your body knows how to heal itself, by relaxing you can let it do its thing.

Instead of chatting on the phone to a friend and straining your voice, try silent meditation or a nap. Let your body come back from whatever infection it’s fighting, and you can get back to being your best self. (Bonus: This remedy is 100 percent free.)

Self-Care for Sore Throats

Sore throats happen for many reasons, such as colds, allergies, and infections caused by viruses or bacteria. In any case, your throat becomes red and sore. Your goal for self-care is to reduce your discomfort while giving your throat a chance to heal.

Moisten and soothe your throat

Tips include the following:

  • Try a sip of water first thing after waking up.

  • Keep your throat moist by drinking 6 or more glasses of clear liquids every day.

  • Run a cool-air humidifier in your room overnight.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke.

  • Suck on throat lozenges, cough drops, hard candy, ice chips, or frozen fruit-juice bars. Use the sugar-free versions if your diet or medical condition requires them.

Gargle to ease irritation

Gargling every hour or 2 can ease irritation. Try gargling with 1 of these solutions:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1/2 cup of warm water

  • An over-the-counter anesthetic gargle

Use medicine for more relief

Over-the-counter medicine can reduce sore throat symptoms. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions about which medicine to use:

  • Ease pain with anesthetic sprays. Aspirin or an aspirin substitute also helps. Remember, never give aspirin to anyone 18 or younger, or if you are already taking blood thinners.

  • For sore throats caused by allergies, try antihistamines to block the allergic reaction.

  • Remember: unless a sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics won’t help you.

Prevent future sore throats

Prevention tips include the following:

  • Stop smoking or reduce contact with secondhand smoke. Smoke irritates the tender throat lining.

  • Limit contact with pets and with allergy-causing substances, such as pollen and mold.

  • When you’re around someone with a sore throat or cold, wash your hands often to keep viruses or bacteria from spreading.

  • Don’t strain your vocal cords.

Call your healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A temperature over 101°F (38.3°C)

  • White spots on the throat

  • Great difficulty swallowing

  • Trouble breathing

  • A skin rash

  • Recent exposure to someone else with strep bacteria

  • Severe hoarseness and swollen glands in the neck or jaw

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