Throat infections affect all people, regardless of their age and gender. They can be caused by bacteria or by virus. Symptoms and course of illness are similar for both causers, but the treatment is different. Bacteria react to antibiotics and viruses do not, even though some people often take them to fight the virus.
A viral throat infection occurs when a virus attacks a body, coming in different forms, such as flu virus, a head cold or more serious infections like mononucleosis, caused by Epstein-Barr virus.
It seems that viruses are more active and easily spread during winter months. This happens for two reasons. One is that people spend more time indoors, with other people, during cold weather, and it is easier to contract the virus through droplets of saliva coming from cough, laughter, sneezing and similar. The other reason is that the immune system adapts to the indoor conditions and when we are exposed to colder temperatures outside it is somewhat weaker.
Symptoms of a virus infection of the throat can range from mild to severe discomfort. It starts as dryness of the throat that may turn into pain, especially when swallowing, due to swelling of the tissue in the throat or the glands. The voice may change becoming deeper and harsh. Swallowing may become extremely uncomfortable and painful.
A throat infection can often be accompanied by head cold, bringing congestion, runny nose, cough, headache and fever.
Most viral infections heal by themselves, because the body uses its own immune system to fight the virus off. However, it is necessary to allow the system to do its job, which implies a healthy diet, plenty of fluids and rest.
Keeping hydrated is very important for fighting a viral infection, because the cells need water in order to function properly. If swallowing causes pain, it is recommended to drink warm tea and soups or milkshake.
Mild pain relievers are recommended if the pain is interfering with normal activities. Many pain relievers also lower the fever and help with sinus headaches.
Throat lozenges are also helpful because they numb the throat and facilitate swallowing.
People who have a throat infection should avoid dry and smoky rooms. If the air at the house is too dry it is recommended to use humidifiers or vaporizers.
Rest is vital for curing a viral throat infection. Since medications like antibiotics do not work against viruses, there is no use of taking them. The body must be allowed to fight the virus on its own, and we can help it by restraining from excessive physical activity and with a healthy diet.
Virus infections usually last up to one week but if they last longer or if the symptoms worsen or it is recommended to see a physician.