When To Go to the ER For a Sore Throat

When To Go to the ER For a Sore Throat

A sore throat is one of the most common conditions for which people visit a doctor. It’s linked to illnesses that affect the back of the throat, causing pain, discomfort and scratchiness. 

When most individuals have a sore throat, they visit their primary care doctor or an urgent care center to receive treatment, such as antibiotics to help with inflammation. But when is it severe enough to go to the emergency room?

The first question that needs to be answered when deciding if it’s time to visit an ER is “What’s causing the sore throat?” Knowing what causes throat discomfort can help you better understand whether you need emergent medical treatment.

What Causes a Sore Throat?
Sore throats are uncomfortable due to inflammation between the pharynx, the throat, and the larynx, known as the voice box. While there are numerous causes for this, the reaction is a response to a viral or bacterial infection. It can also be caused by environmental factors like breathing in dry air or being exposed to frigid temperatures for an extended period of time, which dries out the throat and causes irritation.

Swelling from a sore throat can cause pain, especially when trying to swallow, redness, dryness and scratchiness. Some of the more common causes for sore throats include:

  • Viral infections, such as the common cold and influenza
  • Bacterial infections, such as tonsillitis, strep throat or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Allergies
  • Dry or cold air
  • Irritants such as smoke, chemicals and air pollution

Ultimately, the cause of your sore throat will help your doctor determine the best treatment option.

When to Seek Medical Care for a Sore Throat
While most sore throats are easily treatable at home or an urgent care clinic, there are instances where the infection might need emergency services. One of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation in the throat is through over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Still, if you notice they are not working or you have concerning symptoms impacting your ability to function, ER attention is required.

If you are suffering from any of the following severe symptoms, you may need to visit an ER:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Severe headache
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble speaking clearly

How to Treat a Sore Throat at Home
Home remedies to cure mild illnesses are a great place to start. Many individuals will eventually feel under the weather for typical conditions that only last a few days, such as the common cold or the flu. This is especially true for a sore throat because the most common form is caused by a viral infection that can’t be treated with medication. 

Instead, managing sore throat symptoms until you feel better can help alleviate some of the pain and reduce any irritation or discomfort. Some home remedies include:

  • Hydration – Our bodies need to be adequately hydrated to function. Often when we’re sick, we sweat, use the restroom or expel a lot of liquids. Staying hydrated is key to cooling down and preventing fevers. In addition, water can help the throat from becoming too dry.
  • Over-the-counter medication – Over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce pain and inflammation. Common OTCs include Tylenol and Advil, as they are both fever reducers and anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Alternative medication – Some alternatives to OTCs or complementary additions are teas, lozenges, cough drops and chewing on ice. Water from melting ice is also recommended if you cannot keep down liquids. You can slowly build up your liquid intake as the ice melts.
  • Humidifier – Keeping the air moist will prevent your throat from drying out and reduce further discomfort and pain.

While these home remedies can be effective, you should seek medical attention if the pain becomes severe and unbearable.

Visit ShorePoint Health ER & Urgent Care Cape Coral for Your Health Needs
If you feel your condition is a true emergency, call 911. If you’re experiencing extreme pain or sore throat symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and visit Shorepoint Health ER & Urgent Care.

As one of the only health systems in the Cape Coral area offering emergency and urgent care services under one roof, ShorePoint Health ER & Urgent Care prioritizes affordable pricing and quality care. We only bill based on the level of care you receive, and there are no appointments needed for in-person visits. The emergency room is open 24 hours a day, every day, and the urgent care walk-in clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.