The throat (or pharynx) is the muscular passage visible when you open your mouth. It connects the nose and mouth to the oesophagus and lungs. The pharynx helps us control speech, breathing and swallowing.
A sore throat occurs when the tissues of the pharynx become inflamed. Most commonly, this arises because of infection by viruses and bacteria, associated with the common cold or flu.
Sore throats are common and it is said that the average person will get 2 or 3 of these a year. Sore throats, like cold and flu infections, are more commonly seen in younger people. This is because as a person gets older, his or her immune system has had the chance to build up resistance to cold and flu viruses.
Sore throats are often part of the symptoms experienced with cold and flu infections. They may the first signs of these infections, or develop later as a result of subsequent (or secondary) infection by bacteria.
Inflammation at the back of the throat can give rise to a variety of symptoms, all described as a sore throat:
At the start of a viral cold infection, it is not uncommon to experience a feeling of irritation at the back of the throat which might be described as ‘scratchy’ or ‘itchy’
If the throat inflammation continues, this irritation can develop into a discomfort or pain
Further inflammation can give rise to discomfort on swallowing food or liquids or even saliva