A sore throat is an inflammation at the back of throat and surrounding area, known as the pharynx, in medical terminology. An inflamed throat is commonly referred to by healthcare providers as “pharyngitis.” The pain and discomfort you feel when you have a sore throat comes from the activation of pain receptors by inflammatory molecules, such as prostaglandins.2 These molecules are part of the immune response. They help ward off infection and begin the healing and repair process. They have potent activating effects on pain-sensing nerves and also promote inflammation, which is how your body fights pathogens and infection.
That inflammation leads to common sore throat symptoms like scratchiness, pain, swelling, and discomfort.
Sometimes, a sore throat is one of the first signs that you’ve caught a cold or the flu. A simple check in your bathroom mirror may reveal visible redness at the back of your throat.
The inflammation associated with a sore throat may extend to your tonsils, small patches of immune tissue that are part of your lymphatic system and act as one of your body’s first lines of defense against any pathogens you may be exposed to in the air or in your food.
Sore throat symptoms can worsen if you’re suffering from nasal congestion because you may need to breathe more out of your mouth, which can dry the throat and cause it to feel more sore.