What is a sore throat? A sore throat is a painful, irritated area in the throat that usually feels worse when you swallow. Your thoat is the tube that connects your mouth to your esophagus and windpipe. The technical name for the throat is pharynx, which explains why a sore throat may also be referred to as pharyngitis, meaning inflammation of the throat. A sore throat can result from infection (bacterial or viral), allergy, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction, and other abnormal processes. A sore throat can be caused by mild to moderate conditions and can also occur in some serious, even life-threatening conditions. A sore throat can indicate a relatively mild condition, such as irritation from shouting. A sore throat can be due to moderate conditions, such as influenza (flu), upper respiratory infection, or adenoid disorder. A sore throat can also accompany quite serious conditions, such as airway obstruction, throat trauma, epiglottitis, or tumor of the larynx. A sore throat can also be due to a wide variety of other conditions, including laryngitis, strep throat, allergic reactions, postnasal drip, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), mumps, and infectious mononucleosis. Depending on the cause, a sore throat can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, such as when it occurs after talking excessively or straining the voice. A chronic sore throat that is ongoing over a long period of time can be caused by smoking or a tumor of the larynx. If your sore throat is making it too difficult to swallow or you have a high fever, difficulty breathing, or pus in the back of your throat, seek prompt medical care. Other potentially serious symptoms include drooling, a rough rash, and swollen neck lymph nodes. If your sore throat is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern, see your doctor.