MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Why does it hurt when you have a sore throat?

Date: Sun Dec 2 10:09:34 2001
Posted By: Samuel Conway, Product Chemistry Supervisor
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1000049727.Me

Because if it didn't, it wouldn't be a sore throat, would it?  :)

Actually, a sore throat occurs when there is either damage or infection in 
the mucous membranes that line your throat.  The body's response to either 
one is to release chemicals that swell the blood vessels in the surrounding 
tissue and send blood rushing into it.  This allows the white blood cells 
and antibodies to have greater access to the region in order to fight the 
infection, or to fend off infection while the damage is repaired.  

Unfortunately, this swelling of the tissue puts pressure on the nerve 
endings there and causes pain.  This is a defense system that nature has 
given us to alert the body to the fact that something is wrong.  Any sort 
of damage to tissue will cause a pain response due to pressure on nerve 

I had always thought it cruel that we could not turn that response off.  
Something to the effect of, "OK, message received, you don't need to tell 
me anymore that it's damaged."  I kept thinking that when I broke my leg, 
but my body insisted on reminding me continually.

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