Difficulty swallowing. Swollen glands. A scratchy feeling. Pain. These are all symptoms of a sore throat. Usually, these symptoms are not problematic, since most sore throats do not last for extended periods. Sometimes, however, throat infections become prolonged, and at this point, they need more attention.
A prolonged throat infection is one that lasts longer than the average length of common infections such as the flu. Generally, infections that last longer than two weeks are considered to be prolonged. The infection can still be considered prolonged even if symptoms are dormant for a period of time.
The most common cause for a prolonged throat infection is a virus. These include illnesses such as the common cold. These are contagious and can be spread through bodily fluids and physical contact. Prolonged infections of the throat also can be caused by bacteria. The most common example of a bacterial throat infection is strep. Other causes include allergies, which can dry out the throat and cause tissue irritation and swelling, and other medical conditions.
Treatment for prolonged throat infections varies depending on the cause. Because the sheer number of viruses that exist means that there isn't always a vaccine available for a prolonged viral throat infection, most treatments do not provide a true cure. They only treat the symptoms. People can treat symptoms with humidifiers, throat lozenges, and pain relievers such as Tylenol or Chloroseptic spray, as well as with warm drinks such as tea with honey. If the infection is bacterial, an individual must take antibiotics.
A good example of a prolonged throat infection is infectious mononucleosis. This illness causes enlargement of the tonsils and neck glands. This swelling irritates throat tissue and puts pressure on nerves, and in moderate to severe cases, can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing. The infection can last up to several months.
When to Seek Help
Some prolonged throat infections, although irritating to the individual, do not require a visit to the doctor. Medical attention should be sought if swelling in the throat is so severe that the sufferer cannot breathe or swallow easily, or if pain is so excruciating that it prevents sleep. Also seek help if the infection is accompanied by a high fever, chills, or disorientation. If the infection has progressed to this point, it probably requires a stay in the hospital. Do not wait for the infection to get worse, since infections of the throat can involve the lymphatic system and therefore travel throughout the entire body.