Allergies, infections, and illnesses might cause just one side of your throat to hurt. If the pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, it may be an early indicator of a more serious condition.

Sore throats may range from irritating to excruciating, and they typically affect both sides of the throat.

However, you may experience a sore throat on only one side, which may sometimes be accompanied by additional symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about what might be causing your throat pain on one side.

Postnasal drip is when mucus drips down the back of your nose. This might feel like the mucus is collecting in your throat.

Glands in your nose and throat regularly produce about 1-2 quarts of mucus a day. However, you typically produce more mucus if you’re sick with an infection or have allergies. When this extra mucus accumulates and can’t drain properly, the feeling of it dripping down your throat may be uncomfortable.

Postnasal drip often irritates your throat, making it sore. You may feel this pain on only one side, especially in the morning after sleeping on your side.

Treatment for postnasal drip involves treating the underlying condition. In the meantime, you can take a decongestant, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), for symptom relief.

Tonsillitis is inflammation of your tonsils, usually due to infection.

Your tonsils are two round balls of lymphatic tissue, one on each side in the back of your throat, just behind your tongue. Sometimes tonsillitis only affects one tonsil, causing a sore throat on one side.

Tonsillitis is usually due to a viral infection, but bacterial infections can also cause it. The primary symptom is a sore throat, usually accompanied by some of the following symptoms:

Most cases of viral tonsillitis clear up on their own in 3–4 days. You can ease the pain with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or home remedies, such as gargling with salt water.

If you have bacterial tonsillitis, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics for up to 10 days.

A peritonsillar abscess is an infection that creates a walled-off collection of pus next to, and often behind, one of your tonsils. It usually begins as a complication of bacterial tonsillitis and is more common in adolescents.

While a peritonsillar abscess may cause generalized throat pain, the pain is usually much worse on the side of the affected tonsil.

Other symptoms of a peritonsillar abscess include:

A peritonsillar abscess requires immediate medical attention.

Your doctor will likely use a needle or small incision to drain pus from the affected area. You might also be prescribed antibiotic therapy after the abscess is drained.

Canker sores are small sores that form in your mouth, either:

  • on the inside of your cheeks
  • on or under your tongue
  • inside your lips
  • at the top of your mouth near the back of your throat

Most canker sores are small and round with a red border and a white or yellow center.

While small, they can be quite painful. When a canker sore forms in a back corner of your throat, you may feel pain on one side.

Most canker sores heal on their own within 2 weeks. In the meantime, you can find relief with home remedies or OTC topical medications, such as benzocaine (Orabase).

Your lymph nodes help your body fight off infections. When they swell, it usually means there’s a problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection.

Lymph nodes usually swell in the area near an infection. For example, if you have strep throat the lymph nodes in your neck may swell. Sometimes only one lymph node will swell, causing a sore throat on one side.

In rare cases, swollen lymph nodes may indicate a more severe problem, such as cancer or HIV. Talk with a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms with swollen lymph nodes:

  • nodes that are swollen for more than 2 weeks
  • weight loss
  • night sweats
  • long lasting fever
  • fatigue
  • nodes that are hard, fixed to the skin, or growing rapidly
  • swollen nodes close to the collarbone or lower part of the neck
  • red or inflamed skin over swollen nodes
  • difficulty breathing

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia and trigeminal neuralgia, the latter sometimes called tic douloureux, are rare nerve conditions.

They may cause recurrent, sudden, and excruciating pain around your:

  • ear canal
  • tongue
  • tonsils
  • jaw
  • side of your face

Due to the location of nerves in your head and neck, the pain is usually on only one side of your face.

The pain of glossopharyngeal neuralgia is usually in the back of the throat or tongue. Swallowing often triggers it, and it typically lasts for a few seconds up to 2 minutes. You might feel an ache in the affected area after the acute pain episode.

The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is usually facial but sometimes can occur in the mouth. Pain can be sudden and episodic or prolonged and progressive. Touching your face, eating, or even wind blowing on your face may set off an episode.

Doctors usually treat both conditions with medications for neuropathic pain, such as:

A tooth abscess is a contained collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection. This pocket of pus grows at the tip of the root of your tooth. It can cause severe pain that radiates to your jawbone and your ear on one side of your face. The lymph nodes around your neck and throat may also be swollen and tender.

Other signs that your tooth is infected may include:

  • sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • pain while chewing
  • fever
  • trouble swallowing
  • swelling in your face or cheek
  • tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck

Infection is common with impacted wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth are causing problems, a dentist will likely refer you to an oral surgeon to remove them.

To treat your tooth abscess, a dentist may make an incision to drain the pus. You might also need an antibiotic.

Tooth abscess vs. TMJ dysfunction

A tooth abscess can often be mistaken for a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Both cause jaw and tooth pain. In some cases, TMJ dysfunction affects only one side. It may also cause throat symptoms.

Consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment.

Was this helpful?

Laryngitis refers to inflammation in your voice box, also called your larynx. It’s usually due to overusing your voice, irritation, or a viral infection.

You have two vocal cords in your larynx that normally open and close smoothly to make sound. When the cords become swollen or irritated, you might feel pain and notice that your voice sounds different. If one cord is more irritated than the other, you may feel throat pain on only one side.

Other symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • hoarseness
  • loss of voice
  • tickling sensation in your throat
  • rawness in your throat
  • dry cough
  • dry throat

Laryngitis often heals on its own within 2 weeks, but it’s best to rest your voice during this period.

Tonsil cancer is the most common cancer that affects your throat and surrounding areas. These cancers are often due to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and tend to be more common in males.

While tonsil cancer can affect both tonsils, it usually affects just one. The primary symptom is one tonsil that is much larger than the other. This may cause a sore throat on one side.

Other symptoms of tonsil cancer include:

A doctor can perform a physical exam, run imaging tests, and perform a biopsy to confirm tonsil cancer. Depending on the cause, treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery.

Most sore throats are due to viral infections like the flu or common cold. In rare cases, it can be a sign of something more serious. Seek immediate medical treatment if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • high fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • inability to swallow foods or liquids
  • severe, unbearable pain
  • abnormal, high-pitched breathing sounds (stridor)
  • fast heart rate
  • signs of an allergic reaction

If you have throat pain on one side that doesn’t go away after a few days, work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing it. They may prescribe antibiotic therapy or suggest OTC medications to relieve the pain or other symptoms.

How do you stop a sore throat on one side?

Treatment for a sore throat on one side depends on the underlying cause. However, treatments may include:

  • home remedies, such as taking honey, gargling salt water, or drinking tea
  • OTC medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or throat lozenges
  • therapy, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • surgery, such as teeth removal

How long does a one-sided sore throat last?

The duration of a sore throat on one side depends on the cause. For example, a sore throat caused by the common cold may get better after 1 week, while pain caused by tonsil cancer may depend on whether treatment is an option. A sore throat may persist for weeks, months, or even years until treatment is completed.

A sore throat may cause general pain, or you may only feel it on one side. There are numerous causes for one-sided throat pain, which range from common ailments to serious medical conditions.

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you’re experiencing prolonged throat pain that worsens or is accompanied by other symptoms. This may be a sign of a health condition that needs medical treatment.