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Is That Scratchy Throat Really A Cold? The Case Against Strep Throat (Part 2)

Posted Jun 21 2010 9:23am

In my last post I described a typical person that sees me for a few day history of throat pain. She has cold-like symptoms, but her exam is essentially normal. Her voice box does show mild swelling and inflammation, consistent with laryngopharyngeal reflux disease. 

Upon further questioning, she remembers that she did have a late dinner with alcohol the night before she woke up with her throat pain. This confirms her laryngopharyngeal reflux disease diagnosis. But why does eating late cause throat pain the next morning, accompanied by cold symptoms? As I describe with my sleep-breathing paradigm, most modern humans stop breathing to various degrees at night while sleeping. If you're susceptible to this condition (due to having smaller jaw structures), having any additional stomach juices when you go to sleep will allow it to be suctioned up into the throat every time you stop breathing. 

Not only does this cause throat pain and additional swelling and inflammation, it also aggravates more frequent obstructions and arousals, which suctions up more stomach juices.

Well, that explains throat pain, but why would you have fever, chills, and sweats? Isn't this classic for cold symptoms?

Whether inflammation begins with a cold or from reflux, they both cause additional swelling in the throat, aggravating more tongue collapse. When the tongue falls back more and more frequently, this process upsets the balance with your involuntary nervous system. This causes vasomotor symptoms such as fever, night sweats, flashes, and chills. So what may seem like a cold can actually be a nervous system overreaction, with no sign of infection whatsoever.

In this example patients, I just had her stop eating close to bedtime (along with alcohol), as well as to optimize her nasal breathing, by using nasal saline and nasal dilator strips. Usually, most of these problems  go away within a few days.

What can you do if it doesn't go away? Find out my answer in a future blog.

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