What Are The Possible Reasons Behind Painful Swallowing?
May 24, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

What Are The Possible Reasons Behind Painful Swallowing?

This is one of the most common health issues that are encountered by physicians who tend to your primary care. Feeling pain in the throat while swallowing is usually a symptom of other diseases or medical conditions. This pain is called odynophagia.

This word has Greek roots: Odyno means “pain” while phagia (from phagien) means “to eat”.

This pain can be present in either one or both sides of the throat. It may indicate the following conditions:

The Common Cold

The cause of the common cold is a virus that infects the body. The symptoms, however, appear in 1-3 days after the virus has entered the body. These symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, fever, mild headaches, and body aches. The cough in this condition is commonly accompanied by yellow or green mucus, and sometimes by blood. Since the throat and respiratory area are infected, painful swallowing is a side effect.

The Flu

If you are experiencing painful swallowing, one possible reason could be that you have the flu. Generally, the flu seems like the common cold at first, or vice versa, because both have nearly similar symptoms. Besides that, both are respiratory illnesses too. But there is a difference which lies in the cause—both illnesses are caused by two different viruses.

Symptoms of the flu include runny or stuffy nose, frequent sneezing, fatigue, body aches, etc. Although these are somewhat similar to symptoms of cold, symptoms of flu are generally more severe. Hence, the flu can lead to pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infections, and sepsis.

Strep Throat

Another possible reason behind painful swallowing could be a throat infection such as strep throat. It is a bacterial infection which causes inflammation in the throat which in turn causes pain. The primary symptom of strep throat is a red, sore throat.

Other symptoms include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and loss of appetite. Besides that, there is trouble swallowing. All patients do not commonly experience all of the symptoms. Some only have a sore throat while others also suffer from fever and other symptoms.

Strep throat is very contagious. When a person with strep throat coughs or sneezes, the respiratory droplets become airborne and spread to other people.

Acid Reflux 

Painful swallowing can also possibly mean that you are suffering from the condition of acid reflux. In this condition, the acids from the stomach along with other stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. This typically happens when the lower esophagus sphincter (LES) is damaged or weak and does not close like it normally should.

Symptoms of acid reflux vary from person to person. Common symptoms are heartburn, regurgitation, sour taste, dyspepsia, sore throat, and difficulty in swallowing. However, these symptoms are not the same for everyone with respect to severity.


The condition of infected tonsils is called tonsillitis. Tonsils are two lymph nodes that are located on either side of the throat. Tonsillitis constitutes swollen tonsils and sore throat. It is generally accompanied by fever as well.

Symptoms of tonsillitis are difficulty swallowing, bad breath, fever, chills, hoarse voice, headaches, earaches, and stiff neck. Moreover, tonsillitis can be either acute or chronic. Sometimes, it can be a recurrent condition as well.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, you can acquire appropriate medication from Shifa4U to treat your symptoms.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.