Sore Throat

Pharyngitis is the term doctors use to describe sore throat and it accounts for 10-15 percent of all pediatric office visits. Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal pharyngitis (GABHS), more commonly known as strep throat, is a primary concern of a person with a sore throat. GABHS is more common in children than adults. In both kids and adults viruses are the most common cause of sore throat.

The most important concern in the person with a sore throat is to rule out some serious conditions associated with sore throat, including, most commonly GABHS. Certain factors will help predict if the cause of the sore throat is GABHS or a viral infection. The factors are not perfect and the use of a throat culture is needed in many cases in order to rule out strep throat.Most sore throats are caused by a virus and go away on their own. It is important that all health care consumers are aware of when sore throats can be serious and when they are likely self-limiting.Death is a risk of life, but it is rarely related to sore throat. Throat abscess (pus filled infection in the throat) may lead to breathing problems as the swelling in the throat reduces the ability to breath. Diphtheria can lead to respiratory failure. Untreated GABHS can affect the heart valves and has the potential to lead to heart failure.

These serious complications are rare. Rheumatic fever is one of the most common preventable complication of sore throat. It occurs after GABHS goes untreated. The general population is not as greatly affected, as people commonly believe. In fact it takes treating 3000 to 4000 people with antibiotics with strep throat to prevent one case of rheumatic fever. The incidence of rheumatic fever is about one case per one million people. Treatment with antibiotics do not guarantee prevention of rheumatic fever.Rheumatic fever occurs about 3 weeks after an untreated GABHS infection. It is characterized by joint pain and swelling, erythema marginatum (pink rings on the trunk, arms and legs), heart murmur or subcutaneous nodules (painless, firm nodes over the bones or tendons often seen on the wrist, elbow or knees). If this is suspected an immediate evaluation with a health care provider is essential.Peritonsillar abscess (pus behind the tonsils) can cause sore throat or can be a complication of GABHS. It is not common but is characterized by worsening sore throat, ear pain, inability to open the mouth, fever, and a hot potato voice.