Burning or pain in your throat usually isn’t a cause for concern. A sore throat is typically caused by a common infection, like a cold or strep throat. Only rarely does a serious condition cause this symptom.

When a medical condition causes a burning throat, you’ll usually have other symptoms along with it. Here’s what to watch for and when to see your doctor.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, the backup of acid from your stomach into your esophagus. You get it when a leaky muscle between your stomach and esophagus allows acid to rise up into your throat.

The harsh acid creates a burning sensation in the back of your throat and chest, and can also give you a sour or bitter taste in your throat and mouth. When acid reflux is frequent or severe, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • tasting a sour liquid in the back of your throat
  • coughing
  • trouble swallowing
  • chest pain
  • hoarse voice
  • feeling like food is stuck in your throat

Your symptoms may get worse after a big meal or when you lie down in bed at night.

The mucus that normally lines your nose can build up to the point where it drips down the back of your throat. This is called post-nasal drip. A cold or other respiratory infection, allergies, and cold weather can all cause this symptom.

The constant drip of fluid can irritate the back of your throat. Eventually, post-nasal drip can make your tonsils swell up and feel sore.

Other symptoms associated with post-nasal drip include:

  • coughing
  • tickle in your throat
  • mucus in your throat
  • runny nose
  • congestion
  • hoarse voice
  • bad breath

Dealing with sinus drainage? Try one of these five home remedies.

Strep throat is a common throat infection that’s caused by group A streptococci bacteria. It spreads through the air when someone who’s sick coughs or sneezes out droplets filled with the bacteria.

The main symptom is a sore throat. The pain can be so severe that it hurts to swallow.

Other symptoms include:

  • red, swollen tonsils that may have white streaks on them
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • fever
  • rash
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • aches and pains

Over-the-counter pain relievers can help soothe your symptoms, but you can still pass the infection along to your friends and family. You should always see a doctor to receive antibiotics for this infection. Here’s how to prevent transmission.

A sore throat is a symptom of the common cold. This viral infection of the upper respiratory tract can be uncomfortable, but it usually isn’t serious. Most adults get two to three colds every year.

In addition to a sore throat, colds cause these symptoms:

  • runny nose
  • stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • body aches
  • headache
  • low fever

Cold symptoms should clear up within a week to 10 days. These home remedies can help ease your symptoms.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a viral illness. It causes many of the same symptoms as a cold, including a sore throat. But the flu can be much more serious. In some people, it can lead to life-threatening complications like pneumonia.

Symptoms like these start within one to four days after you’re exposed to the flu virus:

  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • congestion
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

There are treatments available for the flu if you see your doctor within 48 hours of symptom onset. Additionally, there are things you can do to relieve your symptoms. You may even have what you need in your kitchen cabinet.

Mononucleosis, or “mono,” is a highly contagious illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus spreads through bodily fluids like saliva, which is why it’s sometimes called the kissing disease.

Symptoms usually appear four to six weeks after you’re infected. A severe sore throat is one sign of mono. Others include:

  • extreme tiredness
  • fever
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • swollen glands in the neck and armpits
  • rash

Peritonsillar abscess is an infection of the head and neck. Pus collects in the back of the throat, making the throat swollen and painful.

Peritonsillar abscess is often a complication of tonsillitis. If you don’t treat this condition, the swelling can push your tonsil into the middle of your throat and block your breathing.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble swallowing or opening your mouth wide
  • swollen glands in your neck
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • swelling of your face

Burning mouth syndrome feels like you’ve burned or scalded the inside of your mouth and throat, when you haven’t. It may be caused by problems with nerves, or a condition like dry mouth.

The burning pain can be in your throat and entire mouth, including your cheeks, lips, tongue, and the roof of your mouth. You might also have:

  • increased thirst
  • a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth
  • loss of taste

In rare cases, pain or burning when you swallow can be a symptom of esophageal or throat cancer. Colds, the flu, and other infections that cause this symptom are much more common.

A burning throat from an infection should improve within a week or two. With cancer, the pain won’t go away.

Cancer can also cause symptoms like:

  • trouble swallowing, or a feeling like food is stuck in your throat
  • a cough that doesn’t get better or that brings up blood
  • constant heartburn
  • chest pain
  • unexplained weight loss
  • a hoarse voice or other voice changes
  • vomiting

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor. They can determine the cause and advise you on any next steps.

When your throat feels raw and sore, there are a few things you can do to find relief:

  1. Gargle with a mixture of 8 ounces warm water and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Suck on a throat lozenge.
  3. Drink warm liquids, such as tea with honey. Or, eat ice cream. Both cold and heat feel good on a sore throat.
  4. Turn on a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air. This will prevent your throat from drying out.
  5. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
  6. Drink lots of extra fluids, especially water.

Oftentimes, a sore throat will get better within a few days. But if the pain continues for more than a week — or it’s unusually severe — see your doctor.

You should also see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms alongside a burning throat:

  • fever of 101°F (38°C) or higher
  • blood in your saliva or phlegm
  • trouble swallowing or opening your mouth
  • difficulty breathing
  • pus on your tonsils
  • rash
  • a lump in your neck
  • hoarse voice that lasts more than two weeks