Sore Throat on One Side: Causes, Remedies, and More

Sore Throat on One Side: Causes, Remedies, and More

There are many reasons for a sore throat on one side, including infection, inflammation, and injury to the throat. Most cases of sore throats get better quickly. However, a sore throat on one side can sometimes require medical attention.Sore throat, also called acute pharyngitis, is a dry, sore, itchy feeling in the throat that can be made worse by swallowing. It is often a symptom of illness, such as allergies or a minor infection.

This article looks at the causes of having a sore throat on one side, including symptoms and treatment options. We’ll also suggest when to get help for your sore throat.

A man standing at the sink and gargling water

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Tonsillitis can cause a throat pain on one side. It is the inflammation that occurs when the tonsils become infected.

The tonsils are a pair of soft lymphatic tissue masses located at the back of the throat. They are part of your immune system and help fight infections. However, doctors sometimes recommend removing them if they become large and interfere with eating, sleeping, or breathing.

Viruses such as influenza, herpes simplex, and measles are common causes of tonsillitis. But sometimes bacteria can also be a cause. Tonsillitis is more common in children and adolescents, but adults can also develop it.

Treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause. Doctors recommend antibiotics like penicillin to treat tonsillitis due to bacterial infections. Viral tonsillitis does not have a specific treatment.

Your doctor may suggest home remedies such as staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and taking pain relievers to help keep you more comfortable while your body clears the infection.

Learn more about tonsillitis.

Bacteria often cause dental infections. These can lead to a collection of pus at the root of the tooth, also called a dental abscess. A dental infection can cause the lymph nodes around the throat and neck to swell. This can cause severe pain and symptoms of a sore throat on one side.

Dental infections often do not resolve on their own and require treatment by a dentist. In most cases, the dentist drains the pus and offers pain relievers and antibiotics to treat the infection. Depending on the severity, they can recommend a root canal or extract the tooth.

Learn more about dental infections.

There are many reasons why your lymph nodes may be swollen, such as:

Because lymph nodes help the body get rid of infections by identifying and trapping germs, they sometimes become swollen. This can cause swelling and pain. When this happens to the lymph nodes in the neck, it can lead to a sore throat on one side.

Swollen lymph nodes often resolve on their own without treatment. But in some cases, you may need to take antibiotics or antiviral drugs to treat the cause.

Learn more about swollen lymph nodes.

Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx, also called the larynx or vocal cords. This causes the larynx to become irritated and swollen, leading to voice changes. It can also cause a person to experience a sore throat on one side. Common causes of laryngitis include overuse of the vocal cords, irritation, and infection.

Learn more about laryngitis.

Postnasal drip is when excess mucus collects in the back of the throat. Sometimes mucus also drips from the nose into the throat. Postnasal drip can cause a sore throat, persistent cough, and hoarseness. It can also cause painful ear infections.

The different causes of postnasal drip include:

  • allergies
  • spicy food
  • colds and flu
  • chronic acid reflux
  • certain blood pressure medications

Treatment for postnasal drip depends on the cause and severity. Home remedies like saline nasal sprays and drinking plenty of warm water and fluids can help.

Learn more about postnasal drip.

Throat injuries or thrush

Burns from hot liquids or foods can injure the throat. Food allergies and highly acidic foods can also cause canker sores to form, leading to a sore throat on the affected side. Minor throat injuries can be resolved with home remedies, while more serious injuries may require medical treatment.

While you heal, avoid eating hot, spicy, and acidic foods. Gargling with warm salt water can also help.

Learn more about canker sores.

COVID-19 causes a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe, which can include a sore throat. A little study of 2022 reviewed COVID-19 cases referred to the ear, nose, and throat emergency department between January 1 and 23, 2022. It indicated that the omicron variant of the virus affects the upper respiratory tract and causes acute laryngitis.

A study 2019 which reviewed 127 cases of people admitted to hospital for COVID-19 also highlighted that COVID-19 causes upper respiratory tract symptoms such as sore throat and nasal congestion.

If you have a sore throat due to COVID-19, drinking warm fluids, such as soups and tea mixed with honey, and gargling with salt water can help relieve throat irritation. Also, drink enough fluids to stay hydrated while you recover.

Additional causes of sore throat

Other causes of sore throats include:

When to get medical help

Symptoms such as pain when swallowing, hoarse voice and fever often accompany a sore throat. However, they are often not serious and resolve over time. Most cases of sore throats, particularly those caused by viral infections, do not require treatment.

In rare cases, a sore throat can mean a more serious condition. Get medical help if you also experience the following:

  • high fever
  • labored breathing
  • persistent difficulty swallowing food
  • fast heart rate
  • severe worsening of pain
  • high-pitched airway sounds when breathing
  • severe dry cough and raw throat

If you have a sore throat on one side, it could be a symptom of a minor infection. It could also be a symptom of an injury or condition that requires medical attention.

If your sore throat persists or worsens, get medical help and work with your health care team to determine the cause and treat it. Most cases of sore throats resolve when treated with antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies.

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