Sore throats are a real pain in the neck, aren’t they? But I guess we ought to be glad we’re not an ostrich or a giraffe. Can you imagine how they must feel with a sore throat?
Nothing makes a child crankier than a throat that hurts when swallowing or talking, or just when doing nothing. And, unfortunately, boys and girls seem to get sore throats much more often than grown-ups do.
There are lots of reasons for sore throats; some we can control, others we can’t do much about. The commonest reason for a sore throat is that we are about to catch a cold. The soreness usually begins the day before our nose gets stuffed up and begins to run. We can do something to prevent this kind of sore throat. Do you know what? We can do all the things we’re supposed to do to prevent colds, such as wearing rubbers or boots when going out in the rain, wearing a jacket or coat when it’s chilly, and staying away from other children who already have colds. Then, if we don’t catch the cold, our throats won’t be sore.
Some sore throats are caused by a different kind of germ than the one that causes a cold. These sore throats may be caused by a streptococcus germ, and that can make a child pretty sick. There isn’t much anyone can do to avoid this type of sore throat, except to stay away from a child who already has the condition.
Years ago, when your mom and dad were young, it was serious to get a streptococcus sore throat, and often people with this sickness would have to go to the hospital. Nowadays, the wonderful antibiotic medicines clear up a “strep throat” in a very short time. Of course, children with strep throat must stay in bed a few days, must drink a lot of water and fruit juice and soda, and they must take their antibiotic medicine regularly.
Enlarged and infected tonsils sometimes lead to sore throats. Actually, the tonsils can easily get a streptococcus infection, and that will result in the same symptoms as someone with a strep throat. And the treatment is the same, too. Sometimes it takes a few days longer for a child to recover from tonsillitis caused by the streptococcus germ.
Enlarged adenoids, since they are located near the back of the nose, often make a child breathe through the mouth. When you do this constantly, the throat becomes dry and sore. Also, when the throat gets too dry, it begins to hurt and may easily get infected.
The streptococcus bacterium causes a sore throat that can make a child very ill. Streptococcus grows in long chains, and nowadays the infection It causes can be cleared up quickly with the use of antibiotic medicines.
This type of sore throat comes back again, time after time, until the adenoids are removed. After that, the child begins to breathe through the nose again, and—no more sore throats from this situation.
Children who live near places where there is a great deal of air pollution, like near a big factory that belches nasty smoke all day, often get sore throats. But now that everybody realizes we must cut down on air pollution, this kind of sore throat shouldn’t happen so I often.
Don’t forget, whenever the outside air is really bad, it is a good idea to close to the windows and stay indoors. And you happen to have an air-conditioner, turn it on so you can breathe the purer air it produces. Do you know what they do in some of the Oriental countries when the air is particularly polluted? On those days, a great many people wear surgical masks when they go out in the streets. It helps a little bit to filter out some of the polluting particles, but it is not a terribly efficient way to overcome sore throats from air pollution.
In China and Japan, children with sore throats or colds wear masks so they won’t spread the conditions to others.
A common cause of sore throats is an allergy. This means that a person is sensitive to a special irritant. For instance, some people get hay fever because they are sensitive to the pollen of certain grasses or trees. Others, and they number millions of children and adults, are allergic to the pollen of the ragweed plant. It means when they breathe in the pollen of these grasses or trees or plants, their noses and eyes and mouths become swollen and inflamed. Their noses may get stuffed up and begin to run, their eyes may get red and produce lots of tears, and their throats may get swollen and become sore.
Sore throats due to any kind of allergy can be helped by avoiding the irritating pollen or other substances that are in the air. If they can’t be avoided, then the person must take anti-allergic medicines or must take injections to desensitize them from the irritant to which they are sensitive. We’ll discuss this more in the chapter on allergies.
If we take good care of ourselves when we have a sore throat, it will clear up quickly. If we don’t tell our parents about it and neglect it, we may get into further trouble. Neglected sore throats may lead to further inflammation of the larynx, and we may not be able to talk for a while. Also, if we neglect a sore throat the infection may go down our windpipe and bronchial tubes and into our lungs. Then we’ll cough a lot, and get high fever, and may have to spend a couple of weeks in bed. So it is a good idea to let our parents know as soon as we feel a scratchy or sore throat. Prompt treatment will lead to a prompt cure!