Headache with Sore Throat Overview
Headaches refer to pain in the head and face area. It can occur in just one area, such as on one side of the face, or it can occur throughout the whole head. The pain may be dull, throbbing, sharp, or constant.
Sore throats, also known as pharyngitis because they affect the pharynx, is pain or irritation in the throat. It can feel dry or scratchy and may make speaking or swallowing painful.
Headaches and sore throats are common symptoms of many conditions and are often experienced together. Almost everyone will have one or both at some point in their life. They are rarely signs of serious conditions, but when they occur together, you might decide to seek out medical care. In addition to ensuring you are making healthy choices in your diet, water consumption, and lifestyle, chiropractic therapy can help relieve pain and discomfort during a sickness, but it can also help you avoid illnesses in the first place. Additionally, chiropractic can help ease the anxiety you may feel surrounding a sickness and get you on the road to feeling better in your overall health.
What Kinds of Headaches Are There?
Headaches are the most common form of pain experienced by humans. Not all kinds require medical attention. Some forms of headache include the following:
- Tension headaches: These are caused by stress and accompany pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
- Migraines: These are defined as intense pulsing pain and may cause light or noise sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes aura.
- Allergy or sinus headaches: These often happen to people who are susceptible to sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), and occur as a form of allergic reaction.
- Caffeine headaches: These occur as a withdrawal symptom when someone who ingests a lot of caffeine changes their routine.
There are many other forms of headache. Headaches may also occur as a symptom of illness. These are the headaches that most frequently come with a sore throat.
Why Do I Have a Sore Throat and Headache?
The most common cause of the headache and sore throat is infection. These infections can be viral or bacterial. It is difficult to tell the difference between these types of infection without testing.
Viral infections like cold and flu are passed from person to person through close contact, usually last a few weeks or less, and tend to go away on their own. Mononucleosis is another common viral infection that can cause these symptoms and is spread through sharing of bodily fluids, including saliva.
Bacterial infections are caused by groups of bacteria in the throat. Strep throat is the most common of these. It is spread through breathing in the air of an infected person, through infected droplets entering your mouth or nose, or by touching open sores on an infected person’s skin. Strep throat is rarely accompanied by a headache.
Allergies may also cause sore throat and headache.
What Are the Symptoms of a Headache and Sore Throat?
A sore throat may include:
- Pain, itchiness, or dryness in your throat
- Persistent irritation in your throat
- Throat pain that is worse in the morning
- Hoarse or no voice
- Swollen lymph nodes, which may feel like lumps or nodules at the juncture of your neck and jaw
Headache symptoms will include pain in the head and face.
- Pain may come on slowly, over the course of hours or days
- Your head may feel heavy, dull, or achy
- When caused by infection, it will be felt all over the head
If fever is a symptom you are experiencing with headache and sore throat, you may have the flu (influenza), mononucleosis, or strep throat.
How Do I Know if My Sore Throat and Headache Are Bacterial or Viral?
Viral infections are usually accompanied by other symptoms such as itchy eyes (conjunctivitis), itchy or runny nose (rhinitis), cough, and loss of voice (laryngitis). These symptoms rarely accompany bacterial infections.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you most likely have a viral infection. A viral infection cannot be treated with medication. They will subside on their own with time. If you have a bacterial infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics.
What Do I Need to Get a Diagnosis for My Headache and Sore Throat Symptoms?
When visiting your doctor, explain what your symptoms are. Your doctor or physician may also complete a physical exam. There are tests that may be administered to determine if your symptoms are related to certain illnesses, such as COVID-19 or strep throat. The doctor will collect a sample of your saliva or mucus using a cotton swab in your nose or throat. The sample will then be analyzed for bacteria, or, in the case of COVID-19, proteins that only exist in the body if infected with the virus. Sometimes, a doctor may collect blood or refer you to imaging to rule out other infections.
How Do I Treat My Headache and Sore Throat?
While no medication can treat these symptoms if they result from a viral infection, there are steps you can take to alleviate symptoms. Home remedies are especially helpful for managing pain.
For a sore throat, some methods of at-home care include:
- Drinking a lot of fluids, especially water, hot tea with honey and citrus, and soups and broths
- Using throat lozenges, ice cubes, or popsicles to numb the throat area
- Gargling warm saltwater
- Taking hot showers or using a humidifier to prevent dryness
For headaches, you may take over-the-counter medications, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). You may also use a cold compress on the head.
No matter what other remedies you decide to use, the most important step is to get lots of rest. Rest will ensure that your immune system has the energy to fight the infection.
How Can I Prevent Sore Throat and Headache?
Because these symptoms most often occur as a result of viral infection, it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Wash your hands. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Stay home when you feel sick.
- Remember good cough hygiene. Cough into your elbow or a tissue that can be immediately disposed of. If you do cough into your hand, wash your hands immediately.