Dr. Hector N. Hernandez, M.D., P.A.
Dr. Hector N. Hernandez, M.D., P.A. Dr. Hector N. Hernandez, M.D., P.A.
Dr. Hector N. Hernandez, M.D., P.A.
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Scratchy, Achy

Sore throats can put a cramp in your winter pleasure.

Sore throats plague many Americans during winter months.  In fact, this is one of the most common complaints that doctors hear.

It's not unusual for tonsils and adenoids to get infected, resulting in visits to the otolaryngologist's office.  We're all familiar with the symptoms, but what about over-the-counter medications?  And what are the signs that should send us to the doctor for prompt medical care?  The problem is that while sore throats are a common medical complaint, they can also be symptomatic of numerous disorders.

Recurrent throat infections are particularly troublesome, especially in children, because parents face the quandary of whether or not to have tonsils removed.

Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by "strep," are treated with antibiotics.  The bacterial strain streptococcus produces strep throat, which can spread to the heart valves (as in rheumatic fever) or kidneys (nephritis).

Not all throat infections can be cured by antibiotics, because some are the result of viral infections, which don't respond well to treatment with antibiotics.  Plus, these are more common than those caused by bacteria.  If you have congestion, fever, sneezing, and muscles aches, along with a sore throat, it's probably the viral variety.  Such infections are extremely contagious and can spread quickly.

Infectious mononucleosis is also a viral infection that results in a sore throat, as well as massive enlargement of the tonsils, swollen glands, and an enlarged liver and spleen.

Nose and sinus infections can cause sore throats, too.  This occurs when infected mucus drips into the throat from the back of the nose, thus carrying infection into the throat.

Epiglottitis is an extremely serious throat infection.  A portion of the voice box swells, which can choke off the breathing passage.  Associated with this are sudden high fever, painful swallowing, drooling, muffled speech, and difficulty breathing.  Typically, epiglottitis occurs in children two to seven.  Medical treatment should be sought immediately.

Mild recurring sore throats during winter months can also be caused by exposure to dry indoor heat.  If you notice a parched-throat feeling when you wake up in the morning, try these common remedies: Place a vaporizer beside your bed, and increase your fluid intake.

If you suffer from chronic sore throats, sometimes radiating to the ear, and you have trouble swallowing, you need to see your otolaryngologist as soon as possible.  These can be the first symptoms of tumors of the tongue, throat, and voice box.  (Such tumors are usually associated with long-term use of tobacco and alcohol.)

Removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended for some children and adults.  Two main reasons for removal are: (1) recurrent infection despite antibiotic therapy, and (2) difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.

Obstruction to breathing causes snoring and disturbed sleep patterns that lead to daytime sleepiness in adults and behavioral problems in kids.  Some orthodontists think that chronic mouth breathing due to large tonsils/adenoids causes malformations of the face and improper alignment of the teeth.  Severe obstruction can cause a child to jut his jaw forward, which means that his dentition will not develop normally.

Chronic infection in tonsils and adenoids can also affect nearby structures, such as the Eustachian tube - the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear.  This can lead to frequent or chronic ear infections, with earaches and possible hearing loss.

Tonsils have deep crypts that can trap food and cause chronic bad breath.  Sometimes this is so severe that tonsillectomy may be considered.  To avoid a tonsillectomy, the patient can first try using a WaterPik to clean the tonsils.

On the other hand, the tonsils filter out bacteria, which is one reason doctors try to avoid having to remove them.  Typically, tonsils should be removed if during one year, you have four to five bouts of tonsillitis, accompanied by fever.

The reasons for an adenoidectomy (adenoid removal) include: frequent ear infections and obstruction to breathing or to Eustachian tubes, caused by enlarged or infected adenoids.  After you reach the age of 20, the adenoids shrink; thus, an adult who has throat problems requiring tonsil removal won't need to have adenoids removed.

Warning Signs

Be sure to see your doctor if you have severe sore throat, difficulty breathing or swallowing, earache, rash, fever higher than 101, blood in the saliva or phlegm.  Also, if hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks, if you have a lump in your neck or recurring sore throats, have your problem diagnosed as soon as possible.

Source: American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

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2004 AAO-HNS/AAO-HNSF


Please read our disclaimer. Any information provided on this Web site should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with Dr. Hector N. Hernandez or other healthcare professional. If you have a medical problem, contact us for diagnosis and treatment.

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