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Sore Throat on One Side

Sore Throat on One Side

A sore throat is a very common ailment that can affect people of all age groups. It is usually associated with common cold or flu, but could also be caused by infectious mononucleosis, tonsillitis, allergies, or inflamed vocal cords. The following write-up provides information on the common causes of sore throat on one side and the ways to treat this condition.
Rutuja Jathar
Last Updated: May 18, 2018
The term 'pharyngitis' refers to the inflammation of the throat. Pharyngitis is categorized into acute and chronic pharyngitis. Acute pharyngitis is characterized by a sudden and rapid onset of symptoms. On the other hand, chronic pharyngitis develops slowly, and could last for weeks. Though viral infections are most likely to cause throat pain, it could also be caused by bacterial infections.
A sore throat is one of the most common signs of pharyngitis. The symptoms that may accompany a sore throat often vary, depending on the underlying cause. The throat also comprises the larynx and the epiglottis, which is why soreness or throat pain may be experienced if any of these structures get inflamed. Inflammation of one of the tonsils, which are masses of lymphatic tissues that are located on either side of the throat, could also cause soreness or pain on one side of the throat.
Contributing Factors
A sore throat could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Here are some of the common contributing factors for a sore or irritated throat.
Peritonsillar Abscess
Sore throat could be caused by the inflammation of one of the tonsils. At times, the infection can spread from the tonsils to the soft tissues of the throat, thereby leading to the formation of a peritonsillar abscess (localized collection of pus in the tissues around the tonsils). Under such circumstances, one is likely to experience sore throat on one side.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Glands on either side of the throat could swell due to an injury, tumor, or a tooth infection. Certain infections could also cause pharyngitis or sore throat.
Infections
Common cold, influenza, infectious mononucleosis, and mumps are some of the viral infections that could cause inflammation of the throat. Some of these infections could even lead to the enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck.
Common Cold
Rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus are some of the viruses that may cause common cold. Nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, and a scratchy throat are some of the characteristic symptoms of a common cold. Other symptoms that may be experienced by an affected individual include fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, or muscle aches.
Influenza
Influenza, which is commonly referred to as flu, is caused by Influenza viruses. These viruses could get transmitted to others due to person-to-person contact, and especially through the inhalation of respiratory secretions of the affected individual. Though the symptoms of flu are quite similar to common cold, it can be differentiated from common cold by the sudden and rapid onset of symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and sore throat are some of the characteristic signs of flu.
Infectious Mononucleosis
Infectious mononucleosis, which is also referred to as the 'kissing disease' or glandular fever, is another contributing factor for a persistent sore throat. This condition is mostly caused by Epstein-Barr virus. Besides a sore throat, other symptoms that are caused by this viral infection include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, development of a rash, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Sore throat could also be caused by bacterial infections such as strep throat or diphtheria. More often than not, bacteria spread to others due to the inhalation of the respiratory secretions or droplets that become air-borne when the infected individual coughs or sneezes.
Strep Throat
Strep throat is an infection that is caused by Group A Streptococcusbacterium. This bacterium can be transmitted through person-to-person contact. The respiratory secretions of an infected individual may become air-borne when he/she sneezes, and these can be inhaled by those around him/her. Sharing the personal items of the affected individual could also cause the bacteria to spread. Sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, swollen uvula, or the presence of white patches on the tonsils are some of the common signs of strep throat.
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The symptoms that are experienced by the affected individual include fever, chills, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, cough, nasal discharge, hoarse voice, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, or rapid breathing. Another sign of diphtheria is the development of a gray membrane over the throat. The bacteria could be transmitted through the air-borne respiratory secretions. In some cases, the infection could be contracted if a person touches the personal belongings of the infected individual.

Uvulitis could occur due to acid reflux (regurgitation of gastric juices from the stomach to the esophagus), consumption of extremely cold or hot foods, or inflammation of the palate or tonsils. The throat could also get irritated if a foreign substance gets struck in the throat.
Associated Symptoms
The symptoms that may be experienced by the affected individual could vary, depending on the underlying cause. However, the most common symptoms of a sore throat include

Throat pain
Difficulty in swallowing
Redness or patches on the tonsils
Headache
Fever

Throat pain and difficulty in swallowing are some of the most common symptoms of an irritated throat, but the voice of the affected individual is likely to become hoarse when the larynx (voice box) becomes inflamed.

Epiglottitis, which refers to the inflammation of the epiglottis (the flap of cartilage that closes the windpipe while swallowing, thereby preventing the food from entering into the airways), can cause symptoms such as drooling, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, whistling sounds while breathing, etc.

In some cases, pain may also radiate towards the ears. The lymph nodes under the jaw could swell up. Development of small blisters on the palate and bad breath can also be indicative of a throat infection.
Treatment
Though several over-the-counter drugs and decongestant sprays may provide relief from this condition, it would be best to consult a doctor if the symptoms last for more than a week. For diagnosing the cause of throat pain, doctors may conduct a physical examination and analyze the symptoms that have been experienced by the patient. Throat culture is an important aspect of the diagnosis, as that helps the doctors identify the causal organism.
The treatment of sore throat usually involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. If the culture test reveals bacteria to be the causative agent, the treatment would involve the use of antibiotics. In severe cases of epiglottitis, intravenous administration of drugs may be required.
In case of a mild sore throat, using lozenges may provide relief. Following certain home remedies or self-care measures would also prove to be beneficial. These include:

The affected individuals must increase their intake of water.
They must refrain from drinking or eating anything that is too hot or cold.
Gargling with lukewarm saline solution would certainly provide relief.
Steam inhalation could help in case of nasal congestion.
Drinking herbal infusions, chicken broth, or hot vegetable soups may also prove beneficial.
Throat culture plays an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of a sore throat as it helps to identify the causative agent. It's important to understand that the nature of the infection should be known for drug therapy to be effective. The symptoms of a viral infection would not resolve if you take an antibiotic. So, don't self-medicate, and do consult an ENT specialist if the symptoms persist. Timely medical intervention can definitely help you get relief from a sore throat quickly.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purpose only. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.