Sore Throat | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes sore throats?

Many things can cause sore throat. Viruses (such as those that cause colds, the flu, and mononucleosis) can lead to a sore throat. Bacteria (such as those that cause strep throat) can also cause a sore throat, as can smoking, mouth breathing at night while you sleep, breathing polluted air and allergies to pet dander, pollens and molds.

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is when the tonsils (at the back of your mouth on each side of your throat) become infected by bacteria or a virus. It causes the tonsils to swell and can cause a sore throat and other symptoms. Signs of strep throat and tonsillitis are often alike.

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is caused by a type of bacteria called streptococcus. The pain of strep throat often feels much like sore throats caused by other bacteria or by viruses. What's important and different about strep throat is that if it isn't treated it can sometimes result in kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can lead to a rash, inflamed joints and, in severe cases, damage to the valves of the heart.

What is mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis (mono) is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. One of the main signs of mono is a sore throat that may last for 1 to 4 weeks. Other symptoms include large swollen glands in your neck and armpits, fever, headache and feeling tired.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 01/96