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Stiff Neck and Sore Throat

There is nothing as annoying as waking up in the morning with a stiff neck and sore throat. Here is a look at the many causes and remedies for the problem.
Rahul Thadani
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
People often complain of stiff neck, sore throat, and fever as common symptoms of an ailment, and find it hard to ascertain the exact cause of these symptoms. At first glance, these symptoms seem to have nothing to do with each other but there is a deeper relationship between them. A sore throat often leads to swelling of the lymph glands in the back of the throat, and this can sometimes lead to stiffness of the neck. There are a few infamous illnesses that cause stiff neck and a sore throat. Once the origins of these symptoms are traced, they can be cured effectively.

Given below is a list of diseases/conditions that cause a sore throat and stiff neck, along with their remedies.
Causative agent: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

Mononucleosis Condition
This is also known as the kissing disease as it spreads with the exchange of saliva between two people. Stiff neck, sore throat, fever, fatigue, and tiredness are some of the most commonly seen symptoms of this illness. These are experienced after 4 to 6 weeks of viral exposure. Swelling and subsequent rupture of the spleen is another serious result of it. This virus can stay dormant in a person for the rest of his/her life, so it is imperative to eradicate the symptoms as soon as they appear.
Since Mononucleosis a viral disease it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Some effective treatment options are.
  • Take plenty of rest to give your immune system enough time to fight the infection naturally.
  • To get relief from sore throat, gargle with warm salt water. The salt will soak the moisture from the infected tissues (remember pathogens also require moisture for survival).
  • Analgesics like ibuprofen are suggested for instant pain relief.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activities to minimize the chances of rupturing a swollen spleen.
Strep Throat
Causative agent: Streptococcal bacteria, usually group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus. However, group C and Group G streptococcus can also cause this illness.

Strep Throat Condition
It is a contagious disease which spreads through the air we breathe. The tiny droplets sneezed or coughed by an affected person is loaded with the bacteria. It can be easily inhaled by other people, infecting them too. This infection primarily inflames the throat, adenoids or tonsils, and may cause skin rashes as well. These rashes start on the neck and spread throughout the body.
Strep throat can usually be cured within 5 to 7 days after the infection. However, certain medication help in controlling the symptoms and preventing further complications.
  • Antibiotics like penicillin, amoxicillin are very effective against the strep bacteria.
  • Throat sprays also help in relieving the pain.
  • Acetaminophen helps in reducing fever.
Causative agent: Infection and swelling of the tonsils by Streptococcus bacteria,Adenovirus, Herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus.

Tonsillitis Condition
A bacterial or a viral infection causes inflammation of the tonsils. This leads to sore throat and causes difficulty in swallowing. Swelling of the glands in the neck and jaw, loss of appetite, ear pain, fever, and bad breath are other signs of it.
The treatment for Tonsillitis depends on whether the condition is caused by bacteria or viruses.
  • If it is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are administered which could be taken orally (usually a course of 7-10 days), or as a single shot.
  • Complete bed rest and good sleep is a must.
  • Gargling with warm salt water is also effective.
  • Pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen are usually advised.
  • Medicated candies, also called lozenges give relief from sore throat to some extent.
Causative agent: Influenza virus (classified as type A and B)
Influenza Condition
Influenza or flu leads to sore throat, runny or dry nose, headache, and body ache. It can also cause high fever. The virus can spread through air or by direct contact with the infected individual. In most cases an affected person will recover within two weeks but people with weak immunity may develop more serious and life-threatening complications due to the infection.
For flu, certain home remedies can help subside the symptoms. This wards off the general discomfort experienced by the patient.
  • Drink plenty of fluids like soups, fresh juices to compensate for fluid loss due to fever.
  • High body temperature causes considerable discomfort to the patient. To lower it, sponge the patient's body with lukewarm water.
  • Nasal decongestants in the form of sprays are effective for treating stuffy nose.
  • For throat pain, cough syrups and lozenges provide relief to some extent.
Flu vaccines are easily available, and are effective as well. Vaccine shots or sprays should be taken annually for maximum protection.
Did you know?
Fluids from chick embryo inoculated with inactive flu virus makes the Flu vaccine!.
Causative agent: It is caused by a range of microbes - Streptococcus pneumoniae,Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus parainfluenzae, and other factors like inhaling metal particles.
Epiglottitis Condition
It is a condition that swells up the epiglottis, a small tissue that obstructs the food particles from entering the wind pipe. When inflamed, it closes the windpipe partially, making it difficult to breathe. If left untreated it can result in suffocation, and finally death.
Antibiotics may help in curbing certain symptoms of Epiglottitis like inflammation, etc. Also, it is important to ensure that enough oxygen reaches the lungs of the patient. Oxygen masks and ventilators are used for the purpose.

Hib (Human influenza type b) vaccine prevents epiglottis. It is given to babies in 4 doses before they turn two.
Causative agent: Infection of the sinuses by bacteria, viruses, or allergens.
Sinusitis Condition
Sinusitis can be caused due to viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, or even by allergens like dust, pollen, etc. It is characterized by pain around and below the eyes and/or in the temples. Headaches are also common. The mucus is yellow or greenish-yellow with a peculiar smell. A person suffering from this condition may feel tired and fatigued, and experience a loss of smell.
There is no single, sure shot treatment for sinusitis. However, certain steps can help in providing relief from the pain and stuffy nose.
  • Intake of fluids help in thinning the mucus.
  • Nasal sprays can give relief from a congested nose.
  • Taking steam twice or thrice a day helps in opening the sinuses.
  • Avoid sources of allergy like pollens, dust, and extreme temperatures to alleviate the symptoms.
Scarlet Fever
Causative agent: Group A Streptococcus
Scarlet Fever Condition
Scarlet fever is marked by fever followed by red rashes on the body. These rashes have a characteristic texture (sandpaper texture). It is highly contagious, hence an affected person should avoid contact, and sharing of bed, utensils, etc. with others.
Scarlet fever is treated by means of antibiotics, sufficient intake of fluids, and plenty of rest.
Causative agent: Infection and swelling of the pharynx by bacteria or virus
Pharyngitis Condition
The pharynx is a cone-shaped tube that lies between the larynx and tonsils. Infection and swelling of the pharynx gives rise to fever, headache, pain in the joints, etc.
Pharyngitis is usually treated with antibiotics. However, an affected person can recover even without them within 5-7 days. Taking ample rest, gargling with saline water, and sufficient intake of fluids, help.
Causative agent: Inflammation of the larynx by mainly viruses, or bacteria,allergens, external injury/blow, etc.
Laryngitis Condition
Larynx, most commonly known as the voice box, contains the vocal cords. Its swelling leads to hoarseness of voice and obstruction of the wind pipe. It might also lead to fever in some patients.
Antibiotics have hardly any effect as most cases of Laryngitis are due to viral infections. However, giving rest to your vocal cords, using decongestants, and gargling can provide relief to a great extent.
Bacterial and Viral Meningitis
Causative agent: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis(bacterial meningitis) and Enteroviruses(viral meningitis).
Bacterial and Viral Meningitis
This disease occurs when the pathogens invade the brain, spinal cord, or the meninges. The source of these microbes could be an injury or infection of the ear, nose, and even respiratory tract. Also, contaminated food like meat, dairy products may carry the causative microbe. The microbe thus reaches its location through the bloodstream. It causes swelling of the membranes enclosing the brain and spinal cord.
The initial treatment stages of Bacterial and Viral Meningitis usually require antibiotics or antiviral drugs. Patients suffering from seizures are administered with anticonvulsants. In severe cases lumbar puncture or drainage have to be carried out.

Meningitis vaccines like MPSV4, MCV4, etc. protect against 4 types of meningococcal diseases.
Causative agent: Mumps virus
Mumps Condition
The virus targets the parotid gland of the salivary glands causing it to swell up. The patient's cheeks may appear swollen and tender, and feel painful to touch.
There is no specific treatment for Mumps. However, the illness subsides within 5-6 days of the infection and the patient usually recovers within 10 days. Complete bed rest is a must. Also, applying ice pack to the affected region gives relief.

The MMR vaccine is the most popular vaccine against mumps (and also measles and rubella). Two shots of these in one's lifetime is recommended.
Stiff neck, sore throat, fever, and other such symptoms always follow an infection that has affected the throat. Any inflammation there, causes the lymph glands in the neck to swell up, so these symptoms go hand in hand. In most cases though, stiff neck is not very painful but certain ailments can produce quite unbearable neck pain. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, good diet, clean habits, and regular exercise is the best way to ward off the above-mentioned infections and illnesses.

DISCLAIMER - This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.