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What are the Most Common Throat Infection Symptoms?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

Throat infection symptoms can be caused by bacterial or viral throat infections. Throat infections are considered fairly common, especially among children and adolescents. Most throat infections aren't serious, and will go away on their own in about a week. Some throat infections, however, can cause serious complications, especially in children, if not treated properly and promptly.

Viral and bacterial infections are usually to blame for throat infection symptoms. Viral infections of the throat include chickenpox, measles, common cold, influenza, and croup. Mononucleosis can also cause throat symptoms. Throat infections of all types are most common in children, adolescents, pregnant women, and others with lowered immunity.

A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.

Bacterial throat infections are often more serious than those caused by viruses. Diptheria, whooping cough, and strep throat are among the bacterial infections that can cause throat symptoms. These infections most often strike children. Serious, even deadly, complications can develop without treatment. Throat symptoms are not always the result of infection. Allergies, environmental irritants, and even muscle soreness can cause throat symptoms.

A sore throat may be a sign of a throat infection.
A sore throat may be a sign of a throat infection.

Throat infection symptoms generally include pain and scratchiness or discomfort in the throat. Throat discomfort caused by infection usually gets worse with eating, drinking or talking. Throat infections can make it hard to swallow, and can cause the throat to feel dry. Throat infection symptoms often include hoarseness.

Throat infections can sometimes change the appearance of the tissues in the throat. Throat infection symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, white patches or pus on the tonsils or back of the throat may indicate a bacterial infection. More general symptoms can occur with throat infection, including fever, runny nose, chills, cough, sneezing, head aches, and body aches. Nausea and even vomiting can accompany a throat infection.

Whooping cough can cause a sore throat in children.
Whooping cough can cause a sore throat in children.

Not all throat infections are serious, and most don't require any treatment. Since children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to dangerous throat infections like whooping cough, diptheria, and strep throat, they should generally receive medical care as soon as sore throat symptoms appear.

Adults may often choose not to seek medical care for throat infection symptoms right away. Most viral throat infections can't be treated with medication, and patients are generally asked to wait until such infections run their course. Adults may be well advised to seek medical care if sore throat symptoms last longer than seven days, or if there is any trouble with breathing, swallowing, or opening the mouth. Earache, joint paint, rash, fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 Celsius), bloody phlegm, or swelling of lymph glands in the neck are all indications that a throat infection may be serious enough to require medical treatment.

Discussion Comments


Mononucleosis is so horrible! I had it when I was nine, and I thought I would never get over it.

My throat swelled, and it stayed swollen and sore for a whole month! The glands in my neck were swollen, too. I felt like I had one giant head infection.

I was so tired during that whole month. I couldn't run and play like I normally did, and I had to miss a bunch of school.


I remember having the flu as a teenager. My mother recognized the viral throat infection symptoms, because she had just had the flu a few weeks earlier.

In addition to a sore throat, I also had fever. I had weird dreams and woke up confused.

I took acetaminophen for the sore throat, and that gave me a little bit of relief. The flu was rough on my whole body, so I wasn't as bothered by the throat symptoms as I am when I have a minor cold with a sore throat.


@lighth0se33 – Yes, I have heard that untreated strep can lead to pneumonia or meningitis, either of which could kill you. The good thing about strep is that it is unmistakable. You always know when you have it, and you are ready to get help.

Viral throat infection symptoms are much less severe. Though your throat will still hurt and may swell a bit, you won't feel like your airway might soon be cut off.

I have had many colds that caused me to get a sore throat. It always starts out scratchy, swells a little and becomes sore, and winds up scratchy and dry again before it heals. I don't feel like I'm about to die, though.


I normally don't go to the doctor when I have a sore throat, but when I started having strep throat symptoms, I had to go. The symptoms were just too severe to ignore.

For one thing, my throat started out barely sore in the morning and progressed to being so sore and swollen that I could hardly swallow saliva by evening. Also, I had fever of 100 degrees, and I felt out of my head.

I have heard that strep throat can progress to something even worse if you don't get treated. I really don't see why anyone would not want to go to a doctor when they have strep throat, though, because it makes you so miserable that you feel like you might be dying. I was so glad to get that steroid shot and those antibiotics!

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    • A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
      By: pixelcaos
      A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
    • A sore throat may be a sign of a throat infection.
      By: Artem Furman
      A sore throat may be a sign of a throat infection.
    • Whooping cough can cause a sore throat in children.
      By: Zsolt Biczó
      Whooping cough can cause a sore throat in children.