Sore Throat

What and Why?

Most of the infections that can occur in your mouth behave quite unlike colds), presumably because your gums, your tongue and the skin inside your cheeks is tougher and less sensitive. But your throat is susceptible to virus attack and reacts in much the same way as your nose.

The special thing about your throat is the tonsils. These are lymph glands spread out just beneath the skin on each side of your throat. They are closely allied with your adenoids, which are similar glands on either side of your nose near its back entrance, where it joins your throat. They are only separated from your tonsils by the thickness of your soft palate, which is the arch of skin over the top of your throat; it frames the hole you can see in the mirror over the root of your tongue.

Virus attack in your nose or throat can easily arouse the protective function of both your tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen. This may be your most troublesome cold symptom or nasal blockage and catarrh may preponderate; people’s patterns differ. A virus sore throat is commonly accompanied by the other symptoms in some degree, which helps to distinguish it from germ infections.

These are less common, but are important to recognize. One particular type of germ — called Haemolytic Streptococci because they are round, multiply in threads or strips, and can break up blood cells — is able to hang on for long periods in the tonsils and only cause symptoms at intervals. If not overcome properly these germs can cause chronic rheumatic problems many years later. Although that is now rare, safety cannot be taken for granted.

Swollen red tonsils are not usually infected themselves but actively defending skin under attack somewhere nearby. Repeated swelling at frequent intervals is not unhealthy in your early school years if you are well and vigorous despite it.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. A diet including plenty of crisp fibrous food needs a lot of chewing and is mildly abrasive. The muscular massage and scraping this gives your throat at mealtimes keeps the hollows in the tonsil surface clean, and stops your lymph circulation from getting sluggish and congested — far the best direct protection against sore throats. They are usually more nourishing too, adding to your indirect defences. Daily supplements of Vitamin C and Zinc may help too if you get lots of sore throats.

2. Avoid sugary and white floury foods like biscuits, which become pasty in the mouth and can stick in the hollows of your tonsils making them ideal places for germs to grow. They also nourish you less well, indirectly weakening your defences against microbe attack.

3. When you get a sore throat, try using red sage tea as a soothing antiseptic gargle, or keep a clove of fresh garlic in your cheek as a lozenge. The reek is not too obtrusive provided you keep the outer skins on and do not chew or bruise it. There is no single homoeopathic remedy, you will have to experiment or take advice.

4. A good conventional mouthwash is Thymol Glycerine Compound, which can be used neat or diluted with three parts of hot water. Better for pain is Potassium Chlorate and Phenol Gargle, diluted with an equal part of very hot water; but do not swallow this one, as it is mildly corrosive. Three Dispersible Aspirin in a little water make another good pain-relieving gargle — you do not need to swallow the aspirin.

5. After three days of sore throat see the doctor — sooner if severe sore throat is your only symptom, or fever begins. A swab and antibiotic treatment may be wise.

6. Think three times before having adenoids removed. It is a messy operation with an appreciable risk. Work hard at improving their efficiency and bide your time. Deal with deafness separately (see earache). Tonsillectomy is a neater operation but rarely necessary unless the glands have become festering wrecks, which is more likely nowadays in adult life.

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