• December 9, 2023

From heartburn to cancer – the truth about your tickly throat and when to worry


IT’S lurgy season.

That means for the next few months you’re likely to encounter the occasional dry, painful, or scratchy throat as the weather gets colder.

There are several reasons why you could have a sore throat - some of which can be serious


There are several reasons why you could have a sore throat – some of which can be serious

In fact, painful throats account for over two per cent of all GP visits each year.

The majority of sore throats are caused by infections or dry air.

And although they can be uncomfortable, most clear up within a few days.

Here are several reasons behind your tickly throat, including when you need to worry.

1. Viral infections

A sore throat is usually triggered by a viral infection such as the common cold, the flu or Covid.

When an infection gets into your throat it can cause an infection which leaves it swollen, tender and red, the NHS says.

An tender throat can also be caused by glandular fever, sometimes called “mono” or the “kissing disease”.

Measles, chickenpox and mumps are also likely to leave suffers with a sore or itchy throat.

2. Strep throat

Up to 30 per cent of all sore throats in children in caused by the strep throat, an infection of the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria.

It can leave the throat red and tonsils covered in white pus spots.

In rare cases, the bacteria can trigger invasive Group Strep A disease, which can prove life-threatening and even fatal.

3. Allergies

Tickly throats are common in those who have allergies.

According to charity Allergy UK, over 20 per cent of Brits suffer from some sort of allergy, from pollen to animals.

When an allergic reaction takes place, the body releases chemicals that cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, and throat irritation.

4. Dry air

Dry air takes moisture from the mouth and throat, leaving them feeling dry and scratchy.

Air is most likely dry in the winter months when the heater is running.

5. Injury

Certain injuries, such as getting some food stuck in your throat, can also make it itchy.

Having to overuse your voice, like at a loud party of giving a lesson to a class can also leave your voice strained and sore.

6. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common condition which causes stomach acid to travel up to your throat from your stomach.

The acid burns the throat leaving it irritated and soar.

GORD can also feel like a burning feeling in your chest, which is often called heartburn.

7. Tumour

In some rare cases, a sore throat can be a sign of a tumour of the throat, voice box, or tongue.

When a sore throat is a sign of cancer, it doesn’t go away after a few days.

Other signs of the cancer include a change in the voice, difficulty swallowing and a long-lasting cough.

When to worry

The NHS says see a GP if:

  1. Your sore throat does not improve after a week
  2. You often get sore throats
  3. You’re worried about your sore throat
  4. You have a sore throat and a very high temperature, or you feel hot and shivery
  5. You have a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes or chemotherapy

Call 999 if you or your child:

  1. Have difficulty swallowing or breathing
  2. Are drooling – this can be a sign of not being able to swallow
  3. Are making a high-pitched sound as you breathe (called stridor)
  4. Have severe symptoms and are getting worse quickly


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