A burning throat can occur as a symptom of a respiratory infection or another health condition, including allergies or acid reflux. Treatment can depend on the underlying cause and additional symptoms.

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. It happens when a leaky muscle between your stomach and esophagus allows acid to rise up into your throat.

Heartburn and GERD symptoms

The harsh acid creates a burning sensation in the back of your throat and chest, and it can also give you a sour or bitter taste in your throat and mouth. These symptoms can range from mild to extreme.

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.

Heartburn and GERD treatment

Certain treatments can help alleviate symptoms, including:

Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes to help you find relief, including:

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 postnasal drip.

A cold or other respiratory infection, allergies, and cold weather can all cause this symptom.

Postnasal drip symptoms

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

Other symptoms associated with postnasal drip include:

  • tickle in your throat
  • frequent swallowing
  • throat clearing
  • hoarseness
  • bad breath

Postnasal drip treatment

Determining the underlying cause of postnasal drip will help guide treatment recommendations. For example, if allergies are the culprit, antihistamines and decongestants may be recommended.

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 when someone who’s infected talks, coughs, or sneezes, which releases respiratory droplets filled with the bacteria into the air.

Strep throat may be very contagious. Here’s how to prevent transmission.

Strep throat symptoms

The main symptom is a sore throat without a cough. The pain can be so severe that it hurts to swallow.

Other symptoms include:

  • red, swollen tonsils that may also appear to have white patches or streaks
  • red bumps on the roof of the mouth
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • fever
  • headache
  • rash
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain

Strep throat treatment

Strep throat is often treated with antibiotics. A simple throat swab can confirm the diagnosis so you can get proper treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help soothe your symptoms.

You should start feeling better quickly — within a day or two of starting antibiotics.

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.

Cold symptoms

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

Cold treatment

There’s no one treatment for a cold, though you can take steps to alleviate symptoms and get well, such as:

  • taking over-the-counter pain-relieving medications
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • gargling with warm salt water
  • getting lots of rest

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 contagious 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.

Flu symptoms

Symptoms like these start within 1 to 4 days after you’re exposed to the flu virus:

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

Flu treatment

There are prescription treatments available for the flu if you see your doctor within 48 hours of symptom onset.

There are also things you can do to relieve your symptoms, from taking over-the-counter medications to eating chicken soup.

Infectious mononucleosis, also known as “mono,” is a highly contagious illness usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

The virus spreads through bodily fluids like saliva, which is why it’s sometimes called the “kissing disease.” It occurs in around 1 in 4 teenagers and young adults.

Mononucleosis symptoms

Symptoms usually appear 4 to 6 weeks after you’ve contracted the virus. A severe sore throat is one symptom of mono. Others include:

  • extreme tiredness
  • fever
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • swelling in the liver or spleen
  • rash

Mononucleosis treatment

There’s no specific treatment, like antibiotics, for mono. Your doctor may recommend other treatments based on which area of the body the infection is affecting.

Otherwise, treatment typically consists of taking steps to relieve symptoms and promote healing, such as:

  • using over-the-counter pain relievers or fever reducers
  • getting plenty of rest
  • staying hydrated

Peritonsillar abscess is an infection of the head and neck. It occurs when pus collects in an infected pocket in the back of the throat next to a tonsil, making the throat swollen and painful. It commonly occurs in young adults.

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.

Peritonsillar abscess symptoms

Other than a swollen, painful throat and difficulty breathing, symptoms can also include:

  • trouble swallowing or opening your mouth wide
  • swollen lymph nodes in your neck
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • earache
  • hoarseness
  • drooling

Peritonsillar abscess treatment

Treatment typically involves draining the abscess. In some cases, a tonsillectomy, the procedure to remove the tonsils, may be recommended.

Prompt treatment is important. If left untreated, the abscess can spread the infection to other areas of the body. The peritonsillar abscess may become so large that it could also block the airway.

Burning mouth syndrome is a condition where you feel like you’ve burned or scalded the inside of your mouth and throat even though you haven’t. It may be caused by problems with nerves or a condition like dry mouth.

Burning mouth syndrome symptoms

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:

  • numbness or tingling
  • dryness
  • altered or lost sense of taste
  • increased thirst

Burning mouth syndrome treatment

Treatment often includes working with a dentist to manage habits like grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help manage pain.

Lifestyle tips like sipping on a cold beverage, sucking on ice chips, or chewing sugarless gum may also help you find relief.

Esophagitis refers to inflammation of the esophagus. It can occur as a result of acid reflux, bacterial or viral infections, or medication side effects.

Esophagitis symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • heartburn
  • difficulty swallowing

Esophagitis treatment

Diagnosing the underlying cause of esophagitis is necessary in order to guide treatment decisions. For example, if a food allergy known as eosinophilic esophagitis is the culprit, treatment can be as simple as eliminating the food trigger from your diet.

Left untreated, esophagitis can lead to ulcers, scarring, and narrowing of the esophagus, which can be a medical emergency. So it’s important to seek proper diagnosis and treatment.

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

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:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • a lump in the neck
  • ear pain or ringing in the ears
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • hoarseness
  • cough
  • weight loss

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 (38.3°C) or higher
  • trouble swallowing or opening your mouth
  • difficulty breathing
  • blood in your saliva or phlegm
  • a rash

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