Sore throat when swallowing: causes and how to relieve it

Do you suffer from a sore throat when you swallow? We tell you what is behind it and what things you can do to treat it.

Last update: January 02, 2022

A sore throat when swallowing is something that everyone experiences at least once in their life. Most of the time these are specific episodes, often due to rapid swallowing or certain ingredients. When you go from an isolated event to a more frequent condition, it is most likely due to an underlying condition. Today we give you some clues about it and what to do to treat it.

The medical term for these episodes is odynophagia, and it can also manifest itself after fluid intake. It can develop with different degrees of intensity and when it extends over several days or weeks it compromises people’s quality of life. Ideally, you should seek medical assistance for a diagnosis, although in the following lines we will indicate its causes and how to alleviate it.

Main causes of sore throat when swallowing

Researchers agree that a diagnostic process is essential to find the real causes of dysphagia and odynophagia. It is not our intention to replace medical criteria, just guide you how severe or benign these episodes can be. We leave you with five causes of a sore throat when swallowing.

1. Pharyngitis

Strep throat is the leading cause of sore throat when swallowing. It is a bacterial condition that causes inflammation, pain, and irritation in the pharynx. It is more common in children, although it can affect people of all ages.



A sore throat when swallowing is accompanied by fever, red spots at the back of the mouth, swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, and headache. According to the researchers, up to 30% of cases originate from streptococcus from group A.

2. Pharyngeal globe

Patients with a pharyngeal balloon often experience difficulty swallowing or dysphagia. Sometimes this is accompanied by pain.

The pharyngeal globe, also known as hysterical balloon or lump in throat, is the sensation of having something lodged in this organ. Patients describe it as a “partial blockage,” which sometimes triggers anxiety, stress, and pain when swallowing food. All this manifests itself even if the person does not have any kind of obvious physical problem.



It is a very annoying condition and difficult to treat, partly because there is no real trigger. Some patients may also report asphyxia, this against their pharynx and larynx being completely free.

3. Environmental dryness

A cause that you probably have not thought about can be found in the dryness of the environment. Dry indoor air can make your throat dry. This will mean that its walls will acquire a rough texture, which can negatively interact with food during swallowing.

Dry air can also interfere with saliva production, which will further hinder this process. As a consequence, you can manifest a sore throat when swallowing, since the transit of food will be slower and friction with the walls of the pharynx will be greater. The absence of humidity or the increase in temperature may be behind it.

4. Allergies

Allergies to pet dander, pollen, mites, or dust are more common than people think. The symptoms are very varied, and their intensity is conditioned by the sensitivity. A common sign is a sore throat, resulting in pain and irritation when eating or drinking.

You can develop this sign independently of other more obvious ones such as watery eyes, nasal congestion and shortness of breath. A serious reaction is called anaphylaxis. This requires immediate attention because it is life threatening.

5. Gastroesophageal reflux

Although rare, damage to the esophageal mucosa from chronic, recurrent gastroesophageal reflux can cause pain when swallowing.

Gastroesophageal reflux causes heartburn in the epigastrium (the abdominal area known as pit of stomach), chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and sore throat when swallowing. It is a chronic disease, so it gets worse over time (especially in the absence of treatment). Other possible causes of a sore throat when swallowing include the following:

  • Muscle contracture
  • Epiglottitis.
  • Infections (measles, chickenpox, mononucleosis, flu, and so on).
  • Sinusitis.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Wounds or trauma to the throat.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Yeast infections (such as yeast infection)
  • Crohn’s disease.

A less likely cause is some types of cancer. Throat cancer and esophageal cancer can cause a sore throat when swallowing. Even so, the episodes are more likely to originate from the conditions explained above.

How to relieve a sore throat when swallowing

Since most episodes are caused by bacterial infections, the treatment of choice for a sore throat when swallowing is taking antibiotics. However, the options are adjusted according to the clinical diagnosis. To rule out parallel or more serious conditions, we urge you to seek medical assistance.

When the trigger is viral, the choice is generally made to wait for the body to eliminate the virus on its own, or in any case, symptomatic treatment will be prescribed. Chronic conditions such as reflux require permanent treatment that is adjusted according to the characteristics of the condition (frequency, intensity, parallel symptoms, and so on).

Apart from applying a treatment, patients can also take into account a series of habits that minimize these complications. We leave you with some habits that you should include in your day to day:

  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching mucous membranes with them.
  • Accompany food with liquid, preferably water.
  • Chew food properly and avoid swallowing it quickly.
  • Avoid using very spicy ingredients or strong seasonings that can irritate the lining of the pharynx.
  • Cut down on the use of throat sprays. Although they are useful, in excess they can cause irritation.
  • Avoid talking while chewing.

These practical tips will help you minimize these episodes. If it is a recurring sign, do not hesitate to consult a specialist. Self-medication can be tempting, but professional guidance and guidance will be essential for moderate / severe signs and persistent sore throat when swallowing.

It might interest you …