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Hurts To Swallow – Reasons, Complications, Remedies

Excerpt: Pain, discomfort, swelling, and inflammation are very common oral health issues...
Table of Contents

Oftentimes, pain and discomfort in the throat are the results of something more serious. If you’re experiencing pain when swallowing or throat swelling, it’s best to make an appointment with a dentist or doctor as soon as possible. However, knowing the difference between a dental and a doctor’s appointment can help ease some of your anxiety. In the case of a dental appointment, the dentist will inspect the area and may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments as necessary. If swelling or pain is present, the dentist may also perform an x-ray to rule out any other underlying causes. Finally, if pain continues after treatment, the dentist may prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms. For those who are uncertain whether they need to see a doctor or dentist, our guide will outline the key differences and help you make the proper decision for your specific oral health issue.

What to do if Swelling is Present?

If you experience swelling in your throat, you should immediately get a doctors appointment. If you cannot, then the next best option is a dentist appointment. Both of these medical professionals will be able to identify the issue if it is related to their field. If the doctor thinks a dentist would be of more use to you, they will refer you to a dental clinic. If a dentist finds out that it is a general health issue, then they will refer you to a doctor.

How to Address Pain in the Throat?

Pain in the throat is a common symptom and can be caused by many different factors. From the common cold to throat cancer, there are many causes of throat pain. If the pain is mild, it may resolve on its own after a while. However, if the pain becomes chronic or severe, it may require medical attention. There are a variety of treatments available to address pain in the throat, from over-the-counter medication to prescription medications. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms to determine the best course of action. Often, the pain resolves on its own after a while if left untreated. However, if the pain becomes chronic or severe, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

How do I know if my situation is serious and warrants medical attention?

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible: chest pain, shortness of breath, persistent coughing fits, severe abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Some of these symptoms may mean that you have COVID, so you will want to get a COVID test. However, if you’re not sure whether or not the condition is serious enough to warrant such an action, you may want to ask your doctor for a blood test or X-ray to rule out any other causes.

Why It’s Painful To Swallow (8 Common Causes)

If you do develop a painful swallow you should not assume you know the issue, it may be as simple as a common cold or it could be significantly more severe.

Cold, Flu, Sinus Infections

Infection is a prevalent cause of inflammation and swelling, it is your body’s immune response to an attack on its health. Swelling from minor colds typically does not last more than a week or two before it starts to subside. If the pain lasts longer than a week, you will want to see a doctor if you haven’t already.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a painful condition that should not be ignored. If you have strep throat, you should follow the advice of the medical professional treating you. Resting and limiting physical activity is a great way to fight off the infection faster. A sore throat is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands
  • White spots on the throat 
  • Vomiting (in young children)

Herpes Simplex Virus or CMV

Both of these are caused by viral infections, sores in the mouth that cause pain or discomfort when eating or chewing are common symptoms of both of these infections. If you have not experienced sores before and are now experiencing them as symptoms, you should immediately get a doctor’s appointment to be tested for these viruses. Other symptoms that occur with these infections include:
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting


Tonsillitis occurs when your tonsils are infected which often results in inflammation. This can cause discomfort and pain when swallowing. A few other symptoms can also be present as a result of this condition:
  • Swelling
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Tender jaw or neck
  • White or yellow spots in the throat (especially with strep)

Oral Thrush (candidiasis) 

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that is more common in infants or in adults with compromised immune systems. It can also be a result of an underlying cause or certain medications, other symptoms may include:
  • Loss of taste
  • Dry, cracked skin at the corners of the mouth
  • A cottony feeling in the mouth

Swallowing Pills or Food

Sometimes swallowing pills or certain foods can irritate your throat and make it difficult. If you do experience this, you may want to take note of what you have eaten since you may be allergic to that food. Larger pills or swallowing multiple pills at once can also cause discomfort. To make the task easier, swallow 1 pill at a time, it upright, and make sure you have a glass of water.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD

Pain or discomfort can be experienced as a result of GERD, this is due to the irritation from your stomach acid in your throat. This can often be felt as a burning feeling which may or may not cause severe pain, but is unpleasant and will be discomforting.

Some Cancers & Cancer Treatments

Cancers are known to cause swelling and inflammation as well as sores that persist. If you have swelling or sores that last for more than a week, you should seek medical attention.

Other Symptoms That May Occur With Painful Swallowing

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort while swallowing, you also may experience other symptoms as well, which can include:

  • Earaches
  • Gagging and choking
  • Appetite loss
  • Nasal and chest congestion
  • Swollen glands

Home Remedies (DIY) For Throat Relief

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

Ibuprofen (Advil), and Naproxen (Aleve) are both effective at reducing swelling and inflammation in the body. If the pain in your throat is a result of swelling and inflammation, these products may take away some of the discomfort. If you do take these drugs, stick to the daily recommended dose that is shown on the bottle.


Acid reflux can cause you irritation or discomfort because of your stomach acid. This can feel like pain, burning, or discomfort. Taking antacids can significantly help to reduce this issue.

Throat Sprays

OTC throat sprays are topical sprays that are sprayed directly into the mouth, these sprays have numbing agents in them which can make swallowing easier.

Saltwater Gargling

Salt is antimicrobial, which means it will help to kill the bacteria, and it can help fight bacterial infection. Saltwater rinses can be done even when you are feeling well, they are a very useful oral health tactic.

Warm Beverages

Steam and hot beverages can help to open up the airways and may improve the congestion you could be experiencing. Green tea is an excellent option to utilize during your illness.

Hot Shower Or Steam

Not only is it mentally beneficial to have a shower, the steam will help you breath better. If you have a cold, it will also warm you up if you are experiencing chills.

Avoid Certain Foods, Tobacco, Smoking, and vaping

If you experience stomach distress from eating certain foods, you should limit them or cut them out completely, you’re body is trying to tell you to avoid them. Tobacco and smoking in general (including vaping & marijuana) can irritate and cause considerable damage to your throat.
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