Seven Myths and Truths to Know About Sore Throat

Can I have ice cream when I have a sore throat? Do cold drinks make the problem worse? What if I suck on a peppermint, will it ease the pain? These are some common questions about this problem. First, it is necessary to clarify that “sore throat” is not a disease, but a symptom common to several diseases, mainly viral or bacterial infections, inflammation, flu and allergic reactions.

This symptom is usually caused by inflammation that affects the pharynx (pharyngitis), but it can also affect the larynx (laryngitis) or tonsils (tonsillitis). Often, the inflammation involves the pharynx and tonsils simultaneously, constituting the so-called pharyngotonsillitis.

The most common cause of sore throat is a viral infection, such as flu, cold, mononucleosis and childhood diseases for which there is a vaccine, such as measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and diphtheria. But many other conditions can trigger the problem. Other causes include bacterial infections, allergies, reflux, voice overuse, and even a dry throat from air conditioning, dry weather, or sleeping with your mouth open.

In addition to pain, it can be accompanied by burning, difficulty swallowing, local redness and swelling, hoarseness, loss of voice, cough, headache, body aches and reflexes in the ear and neck, fever, pus in the tonsils, malaise , lack of appetite, throat clearing and indisposition.

Although most of the time it resolves itself in a few days — and precisely because of this it is considered by many to be harmless —, it should never be neglected.

There are several doubts about sore throat, for this reason Live well separated some myths and truths about the problem:

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Does having ice cream or cold drinks make a sore throat worse?

The simple ingestion of ice cream or cold drinks is not capable of causing a sore throat. In some cases, the refrigerated liquid can even contribute as an analgesic in relieving pain.

However, if the cause of the pain is infectious, ice cream or cold drinks can make the condition worse. This happens because, at low temperature, the cilia of the mucosa – which are a natural protection – can paralyze, impairing their functioning and worsening the infection.

Does sudden changes in temperature cause a sore throat?

Going from a very hot place to a very cold place can lower immunity and impair the functioning of the airway mucosa. This mainly happens when you enter an air-conditioned room at a low temperature.

The principle is the same as for cold drinks: the cold hinders the movement (in some cases, paralyzing) the mucous cilia. The same happens when we are exposed to low temperatures for a long period without being properly covered.

Can Air Conditioning, Low Humidity, and Air Pollution Cause a Sore Throat?

Air conditioning causes a sore throat because it draws moisture out of the air, causing the airways to dry out. The lack of maintenance and cleaning in air conditioners can cause allergies and irritation to the mucous membranes.

The ideal is to keep the air conditioning temperature mild, perform maintenance periodically, clean the filter of the device weekly (or twice a week, if it is on every day) and increase your water intake when staying in refrigerated environments.

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Is sucking candy or chewing gum good for a sore throat?

Menthol candies and chewing gum even cause a sensation of relief for a few minutes, but the effect is momentary and can irritate the mucosa even more. In some cases, it is recommended to take lozenges with anesthetic substances, suitable for sore throats. But the use of these lozenges must be prescribed by a doctor.

Can a poorly cured throat infection reach the heart?

When a sore throat is caused by bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes of group A, inadequate treatment or lack of it in people with some genetic predisposition can cause the condition to evolve and trigger the autoimmune disease rheumatic fever, with possible consequences for the heart (as well as the central nervous system, joints and skin).

Is it only possible to cure a sore throat with antibiotics?

The use of antibiotics is recommended only in cases of bacterial infections, as this type of medication has no effect against viruses or in allergic conditions. In some cases, anti-inflammatories or antiallergics may be prescribed.

It is important to always remember that self-medication can cause damage to health, and the indiscriminate use of antibiotics is responsible for many cases of bacterial resistance. When the sore throat lasts for three days or more, seek medical help.

Does wrapping an alcohol handkerchief around the neck treat a sore throat?

Although many people report that they feel relief because of the feeling of heat that alcohol causes — it heats up the region and ends up forcing the body to take more blood there — this happens only momentarily. This type of action in no way reduces or makes the symptoms disappear, as it does not fight the causes.

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*With information from reports published on 05/06/2020, 12/16/2020 and 03/10/2021.