A severe sore throat is a sore throat lasting more than three days and accompanied by serious symptoms. These symptoms suggest the sore throat is a symptom of a more serious underlying medical problem, rather than a standalone irritation, and the patient may require medical treatment to address both the sore throat itself and the causative disease. Any time people have a consistently high fever, difficulty breathing, or altered level of consciousness, they should be taken to a doctor for medical treatment, even if a sore throat has not lasted three days.
Sore throats have a wide variety of causes. Most last less than three days and are accompanied with mild pain and discomfort. The patient may feel slightly unwell and can be hoarse, but is generally able to conduct daily tasks. In a severe sore throat, the symptoms can become debilitating. The sore throat may be linked to a systemic viral infection or another medical problem.
With a severe sore throat, the pain and swelling are significant. The patient may have difficulty breathing, and the lymph nodes around the throat can be markedly swollen. Symptoms like earache, stiff neck, rash, pus in the throat, bloody sputum, and joint pain can sometimes be observed. The patient also has a high temperature, over 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius). The fever may be associated with sweat and chills.
Patients with severe sore throat may have serious viral or bacterial infections. If the infection is not treated, it can spread, and may lead to severe complications or even death for the patient. A doctor can take swabs to run a throat culture, as well as examining the patient to collect other diagnostic clues. This information can be used to develop an appropriate treatment plan to address the patient's condition and make the patient feel more comfortable. Immediate relief may include measures to help the patient breathe, along with analgesia to manage the pain.
Some patients may have a repeat history of severe sore throat. If people experience recurrent sore throats, it can be an indicator of an underlying problem with the immune system or another chronic medical issue. Careful medical evaluation can be conducted to learn more about why the patient is experiencing repeated sore throats.
If people are not sure about whether a sore throat merits a trip to the doctor, they can call a doctor or nurse for a phone consultation. After discussing the symptoms and their duration, the consultant can decide if the patient needs to be seen in a medical office or hospital.