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What Are the Causes of a Sore & Burning Throat?

author image Lindsay Boyers
Lindsay Boyers has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.
What Are the Causes of a Sore & Burning Throat?
A sore and burning throat usually develops as a result of a respiratory infection. Photo Credit: CandyBoxImages/iStock/Getty Images

When a person breathes, air travels into the nasal passages and down the throat, or trachea. If harmful organisms such as bacteria or viruses are in the air, some of them become trapped on the tonsils or in the throat and others travel into the body. These harmful organisms can lead to illnesses that cause a sore and burning throat.

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Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and the throat. More than 100 viruses can cause the common cold, but notes that the most common virus is the rhinovirus. Those with a common cold may experience a runny nose, stuffy nose, sore and burning throat, coughing, congestion, body aches, headache, sneezing, watery eyes, fatigue and a low fever. Although extremely bothersome, the common cold does not cause any serious health problems or complications. The common cold is highly contagious and can be spread through airborne droplets or direct contact with someone who is infected. Because the common cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective against treating it. recommends the use of over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers until the infection goes away.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is an infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and is the most common bacterial infection of the throat, according to MedlinePlus. The infection is contagious and can be spread from direct contact with saliva or nasal secretions of an infected individual. The most common symptom of strep throat includes a sore, burning throat that may be red in color and covered with white patches. Other symptoms of strep throat include fever, headache, stomachache, nausea, chills, discomfort, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes and difficulty swallowing. Because strep throat is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are successful in treating it. MedlinePlus notes that antibiotics are usually taken for 10 days and that the entire round of antibiotics must be taken even if symptoms go away.


Mononucleosis is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Unlike other conditions that cause a sore and burning throat, the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that mononucleosis is not easily spread. The infection is often referred to as the kissing disease because it is mostly transmitted through contact with infected saliva. Symptoms of mononucleosis include sore throat, fever, fatigue, weakness, swollen glands, loss of appetite and night sweats. No available medical treatment are available for mononucleosis. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends bed rest, increased fluid intake, saltwater rinses and over-the-counter pain relievers until the infection goes away.

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