What is Reason for Throat Pain?

Experiencing throat pain while swallowing is somewhat common across people of all ages and can have numerous causes.

In most cases, patients who have difficulty with swallowing and pain, generally have an infection or allergic reaction. Follow up with your doctor right away if the pain is severe or creates issues with eating, drinking, or especially breathing.

Swallowing Pain

In most cases, the cause of pain when swallowing include the following:

  • Acid reflux
  • Common cold
  • Chronic cough
  • Flu
  • Throat infection or strep throat
  • Tonsillitis

While they are less common, additional causes for pain when swallowing can include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Throat injury
  • Ear infection
  • Swallowing hard and crunch food, including chips or crackers

Although it is quite rare, pain when swallowing can also be an indicator of some types of cancer, including esophageal cancer.


Conditions which can cause pain during swallowing can result in the following complications:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Chest infections
  • Loss of taste, temporary or permanent
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Patients may experience the below symptoms in addition to painful swallowing when an infection is present:

  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Red or inflamed tonsils

If you experience any of the symptoms list below in addition to pain when swallowing, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency care:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Issues with swallowing
  • More than normal amount of drool
  • Throat which is visibly swollen

If you experience any of the following symptoms, go directly to the emergency room for treatment:

  • Challenges with opening the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Issues swallowing
  • Severe and worsening throat pain

If you experience any of the below symptoms in addition to pain when swallowing, schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • Blood when coughing
  • Hoarse voice lasting more than two weeks
  • Joint pain
  • Lump in your neck
  • Rash
  • Symptoms lasting a week or more

Never hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you are concerned with you symptoms.


When you meet with your doctor, it is important to discuss each and every symptom. Be sure to communicate the duration of each symptom and if any symptoms have gotten worse. This aids your doctor in determining the cause of the pain and making an effective treatment plan.

If the cause cannot be determined from a physical examination alone, addition tests may be required which can include the following:

  • A complete blood count blood test measures the levels of various types of blood cells found within your body. The results can help your doctor determine whether your body is fighting off an infection caused by a virus or bacteria.
  • An MRI or CT scan can give insight to the doctor and allow them to determine if there are any abnormalities. These imaging tests are also used to identify if any tumors are present in the throat or neck area.
  • A throat swab culture requires the collection of mucus from the back of your throat. This test helps to identify if certain types of organisms are present in the throat which may indicate an infection.
  • A sputum culture includes collecting a sample of sputum, or phlegm, in order to test it for the presence of specific organisms. This simple and painless test can aid your doctor in determining if an infection is present and causing the pain when swallowing.

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