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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Veena Angle, MBBS, MD

Quiz: What Does Your Sore Throat Mean?

There are several things that could be causing your sore throat. Take our short quiz to help narrow down a cause and then read on to find out how to get relief.

Sore throat min scaled

Just when you thought you managed to escape the cold and flu season without getting sick, you get a sore throat. But does this mean you’re fighting a virus or is it something else?

Causes of sore throat may be infectious (bacterial or viral) or non-infectious, such as allergies, dryness, or muscle strain due to speaking loudly.

Take this short quiz to find out what could be causing your sore throat. Then, read on to learn natural ways to soothe your throat pain.

Why Do You Have A Sore Throat?

Always check with a doctor to confirm the cause of your sore throat and recommend a treatment plan.

Many factors lead to a sore, swollen, or scratchy throat. Let’s uncover the cause of your throat pain and how to treat it, based on your quiz answers.

If you answered mostly A’s: You might have tonsillitis or strep throat

There are two types of tonsillitis: viral tonsillitis, which will clear on its own; and bacterial tonsillitis, which would require prescription antibiotics. You can achieve relief from recurring tonsillitis by using ibuprofen, paracetamol, lozenges, a throat spray, or an antiseptic solution. If medication fails to treat the condition and it keeps recurring, the doctor may recommend removing your tonsils. 

Strep throat, meanwhile, is the product of a Streptococcus bacterial infection. It usually spreads through droplets from an infected person’s cough or sharing food with them. Antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin are the most common medicines to treat strep throat.

“In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an invasion of Wind-Heat pathogens causes tonsillitis. The consumption of oily, spicy, or fried can make you susceptible to lung and stomach heat in the throat and tonsils. TCM remedies like herbal medication and acupuncture can help,” says Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew from Real Health Medical Clinic in Singapore.

“Adding on to that, there must be an underlying bodily imbalance within the patient that acts as the root causative behind the numerous bouts of tonsillitis. As long as underlying bodily imbalance is addressed, theoretically, tonsillitis can be well managed or even prevented. Its frequency and severity, too, will be significantly reduced, and the patient can enjoy a much better quality of life,” says Physician Yew. 

Herbal formulations and ingredients that may help a sore throat

TCM formulations or ingredients that can alleviate the symptoms of tonsillitis and strep throat include:  

  • Isatidis Root (banlangen)
  • Great burdock achene (niubangzi
  • Isatidis root (banlangen
  • Figwort root (xuanshen
  • Puff-ball (mabo
  • Common Andrographis herb (Chuan Xin Lian
  • Snakegourd fruit (gualou)
  • Weeping Forsythiae (Lian Qiao)

Classical formulas such as Pu Ji Xiao Du YinYang Yin Qing Fei TangGan Lu Xiao Du Danand Bai He Gu Jin Tang are also effective. For convenience, many people take a prepackaged herbal formula with several ingredients to help ease an itchy, sore throat.

“However, some of these herbs and formulas are for generic cases of tonsillitis. Some people might benefit, others might not. Some may even experience a worsening of their existing condition or develop new problems. As such, it’s strongly advised to refrain from purchasing herbs or formulas to self-medicate without first undergoing a thorough consultation and proper assessment. This should also be followed by professional guidance by a TCM practitioner,” cautions physician Yew.

“With herbs, especially, they are often prescribed by a TCM professional who will also combine a few different herbs to target underlying specific root causes based on your unique body constitution. In this way, the prescription formula provides a more customized, fitting, and holistic treatment instead of just treating your problem symptomatically,” continued Physician Yew. 

If you answered mostly B’s: You might have laryngitis or the flu 

Herbal tea can help soothe a painful throat while also keeping you hydrated to flush toxins.

Laryngitis is the outcome of viral infections, chronic sinusitis, vocal strain, or an allergy. Ibuprofen or paracetamol can help calm laryngitis symptoms. Medicinal syrup can also be good for coughs, while lozenges and gargle solutions help soothe the pain.

The remedy for the flu, on the other hand, may involve the use of antiviral medication. However, antiviral medication is usually only recommended in patients with high-risk of complications

In TCM, the throat is the ‘gate’ to the lungs, and the larynx is part of the throat. Therefore, treating laryngitis is best achieved through treating the lungs. Herbs that can clear toxins within the lungs to relieve laryngitis include:  

  • Licorice (gancao
  • Cicada slough (chantui
  • Lo han fruit (luohanguo
  • Mint leaf (bohe)  
  • Platycodon root (jiegeng
  • Boat-fruited sterculia seed (pangdahai
  • Indian trumpet flower seed (muhudie)  
  • Franchet groundcherry calyx and fruit (jindenglong)  

As for the flu, TCM states that external pathogenic factors like the combination of Wind with cold, Fire, or dampness can cause this condition.

Stimulating acupoints like Chize (LU 5), Hegu (LI4), Lie Gue (LU7), Tiantu (RN 22), Yuji (LU 10), and Zhaohai (KI 6) can also help ease throat pain.

Before taking any herbs or trying any therapies, ensure that you consult a physician beforehand. The faster you seek treatment, the more effective it will be. If this quiz has helped you identify the cause of your throat pain, share it with your loved ones!

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Strep Throat: All You Need to Know.  
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Strep Throat 
  3. NHS. 2021. Tonsillitis.  
  4. NHS. Laryngitis. 2020.  
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Flu Symptoms & Complications.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Flu Treatment.

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