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 E N T (Ear Nose & Throat)

august 2012

Don’t Choke On Throat Infections

Dr E C Vinay Kumar
 
Throat infections are a common problem in tune with the changes in our lifestyle. Most people treat it as a normal disease or seasonal disease and we hardly look for the root cause. But throat infections can prove to be a significant disruption in daily life.

Causes Of Throat Infections

  • Throat infections are caused by viral or bacterial infections. Examples of viral causes of sore throat include flu (influenza) and infectious mononucleosis; the strep throat is caused by bacterial infection. Both bacterial and viral throat infections are usually contagious.
  • Air pollution and water contamination, unhealthy food and poor dietary habits can lead to these throat infections.
  • In dust polluted environments, we sneeze a lot and end up breathing through the mouth. Dust is thus inhaled through the throat and this too leads to throat infection.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is also seen to be a major cause of sore throat in recent times.
  • Ear, nose and throat are connected to each other. Disease in any one of these organs can lead to disease in the other two in the long term. The effects are dependent on factors like duration of the disease, causative factor, severity of disease and allergies.
The common belief is that throat infections are common in winters, but upper respiratory tract infections are not restricted to seasonal occurrences.

Common Symptoms
  • Throat pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Dry throat
  • Sneezing
  • Cough (possibly coughing up clear, yellow, light brown, or green mucous)
  • Difficulty in breathing (ranging from mild to severe)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes or tonsils
  • Hoarseness of voice or laryngitis
  • Body aches

Life-Threatening Throat Conditions
Left untreated, throat infections can, in a limited number of cases, become life threatening – if the airway is cut off or if the infection spreads into the bloodstream. Seek prompt medical care if you develop any of the following symptoms.

  • Sudden swelling of the tongue or throat structures t High fever (higher than 1010 F)
  • Severe difficulty in breathing, combined with pale or blue lips and rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Severe pain
  • Change in levels of consciousness or alertness
  • Choking
  • Fainting and lethargy
  • Joint pain or jerky movements

Treatment Of Throat Infections
The most important step in treating throat infection is to practice prevention. Many throat infections resolve by themselves over time, or are usually curable with timely treatment.

If your doctor suspects infection, he will probably take a throat culture swab for laboratory analysis to identify the cause of your infection. Antibiotic therapy is the mainstay of treatment for a bacterial infection and is highly effective. It is important to follow your treatment plan precisely and take all medications as instructed, to avoid recurrence.

Precaution And Home Remedies
  • Take to salt water gargles, herbal teas, and lozenges. They can provide temporary pain relief
  • Paracetamol may help control fever and pain
  • Get adequate bed rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm water and fruit juices (except citrus fruits)
  • Have timely meals and avoid junk food
  • Do steam inhalation t Rest your voice as much as possible
  • Avoid spicy, oily and sour food items
  • Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks
  • Keep your surroundings clean and dust-free
  • Avoid exposure to cold weather
  • Avoid sharing food and eating utensils, cups, and glasses
  • Use sanitizing agents on phones, keyboards, remotes, and other shared surfaces
  • Ventilate work and living spaces as much as possible
  • Wash your hands frequently
Dr E C Vinay Kumar is Senior Consultant Surgeon, ENT, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad