I guess it's better than a 100% sore throat, but...
November 4, 2011 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Sore throat...on only one side?

I woke up 2 nights ago with a super dry mouth and this weird soreness on the left side of my throat. My left ear also seems somewhat clogged. I have no other symptoms, feel pretty good actually. The soreness is not all the time, but when I swallow. Like it's swollen...not that burning sore throat thing.

It's not strep (I know from strep, got it every year of my life from childhood to college). I also know I'm partial to sinus infections, but I've never had something like this on only one side of my body before. I have never had my tonsils out.

I'll go to the doctor on Monday if it isn't better, but I'm wondering (a) what the heck is going on and (b) should I be more concerned and (c) is it contagious?

Also, I was planning on getting my flu shot today, but I guess I should hold off...
posted by JoanArkham to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a kid, I used to get sore throats just on one side fairly frequently and it was diagnosed as tonsillitis. We were poor so I didn't have them taken out and I seemed to have grown out of it. Indeed I'd forgotten all about it until I read your question. Do you still have your tonsils? If so that would be my guess.
posted by kaybdc at 7:44 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, still have my tonsils. Do they even take out kids tonsils anymore?
posted by JoanArkham at 7:47 AM on November 4, 2011

Do they even take out kids tonsils anymore?

I don't think that they do, but I'm old enough that it was the norm at the time.
posted by kaybdc at 7:50 AM on November 4, 2011

That just happened to me. I had a sore throat, ear ache, tooth ache and head ache on one side.

Sinus infection.

The sore throat was caused by post-nasal drip. YMMV.
posted by Cygnet at 7:55 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is the sore throat on the side that you sleep on? If so, try sleeping on the other side and see if the next day your sore throat is on the other side. That might help determine if it's post-nasal drip irritation.

But I had a one-sided sore throat like this last year that was not post-nasal drip related, so that is possible too. It lasted about a week and then it switched sides. But when I went to the doctor, they didn't see anything abnormal (even though it felt extremely sore and swollen) and didn't think it was much of a concern. It just cleared up on its own.
posted by dayintoday at 7:59 AM on November 4, 2011

They do take out tonsils, but it takes a heck of a lot of strep for them to do it. I think the last guideline I heard was more than 7 episodes of strep throat/tonsillitis in one year. Some kids also get their tonsils and adenoids out for snoring.

Just 'cause you asked, you can also have throat pain on one side from having an abscess on one side of your oral cavity, or if you have some sort of trauma to one side of your throat like swallowing something sharp. But I think these things are very unlikely to be your issue.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:01 AM on November 4, 2011

My ears are really good at getting clogged up, then draining, then clogging up again, etc. It's related to allergies for me, but one thing the many doctors told me is that because your ears drain into the back of your throat all the ear stuff can cause a sore throat, especially on one side. So it could be related to your ear (or even sinuses) draining junk only on one side. Or just one Eustachian tube being inflamed. The doctor tells me to take Mucinex (or guafinesin/Tussin syrup) and a Sudafed type decongestant to get the junk to drain out of my ears. Ibuprofen or Aleve would also help me with that swollen/inflamed feeling. I will say that whenever I have ear stuff going on like this I take Tylenol Severe Cold and Sinus. Makes me feel much better because it has all the stuff I need (pain reliever, guafinesin, and the PE decongestant) all in one pill. YMMV.

I never had issues with tonsillitis so I can't comment on how those come into play.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:12 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks, all! I've been taking Advil, but I'm going to add a decongestant too. Although I did just drink an awful lot of coffee...
posted by JoanArkham at 8:21 AM on November 4, 2011

I used get what was frustratingly diagnosed as recurrent aphthous stomatitis (basically canker sores) that mostly affected my mouth, but also my throat (multiple canker sores at a time). There are theories as to what caused them (lathering agents in toothpaste, stress, etc), but they have pretty much disappeared on their own.

I still occasionally get one at a time now, which often presents as a one-sided sore throat.
posted by Pax at 8:22 AM on November 4, 2011

I have had a couple of ear infections that caused throat pain when swallowing with no noticeable ear pain. I also had tonsillitis a few times as a kid that was just on one side - but it also always hurt when I opened my mouth wide.

I also had strep at least once a year throughout my childhood, but I finally had my tonsils removed at age 19. In the 20 years since then, I have only had two cases of strep, but both times felt very very different from my childhood strep. I don't know if that is because I don't have tonsils now, or because it's different for adults, but it can be different some times. My daughter has also had the traditional strep, but had one case with no symptoms at all except for a rash. Which is all a long way of saying that it might still be strep. Because strep is weird.
posted by Dojie at 8:23 AM on November 4, 2011

I am home sick with this exact thing right now. Amazing. Left side and everything. It was worse last night; seems to have improved slightly since then.

For what it's worth, I've never had strep throat (still have my tonsils), and do occasionally get sinus infections. Never had one on just one side before, or with this sore of a throat. Last night I didn't want to swallow anything (insert "there goes my social life" joke here) so I made a warm salt-water gargle. Helped a bit to clear out the phlegm.
posted by supercres at 8:30 AM on November 4, 2011

Though I will say that I'm fairly even between sleeping on left and right sides, so I doubt it's solely caused by nighttime drainage (at least for me).
posted by supercres at 8:33 AM on November 4, 2011

I go back-and-forth in my sleep too, but when I woke up with that super dry mouth, I was on my left side.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:39 AM on November 4, 2011

Do you get canker sores? I've had them far enough back in my mouth that they felt like a sore throat for a couple days until they healed.
posted by aught at 8:51 AM on November 4, 2011

I've had something like this twice in my life. The second time was tonsillitis that antibiotics sorted out. The first was thrush, and it was among the most painful things I've experienced. When I had that, I could see white blotches in my throat and on the roof of my mouth. Can you see anything that looks unwell when you look into the back of your throat?
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:56 AM on November 4, 2011

I have this now and I am a side sleeper and I think it's just variable conditions; sometimes one side gets more sore than the other. It's not like snot is under a mandate to be symmetrical.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

yep! Had this recently, due entirely to sudden large shifts in weather. I also had a strep-like infection just on the left side, according to where the blisters showed up in my mouth.
posted by Jacen at 9:02 AM on November 4, 2011

I experienced this once (I'm sure I wrote about here so you can search my activity if you want), and it was an abscessed tonsil. The abscess ended up bursting.

Take a flashlight and look at your throat in the mirror. Is that side swollen? If so, head to the doctor. Google peritonsillar abscess and be aware of those symptoms.
posted by peep at 9:28 AM on November 4, 2011

Pain while swallowing + a fever was the first indication I had pneumonia. It felt like I had swallowed a potato chip that got stuck in my throat. If you feel like utter dogshit over the weekend, go to an urgent care. Don't wait until Monday.
posted by desjardins at 10:03 AM on November 4, 2011

Gaah! No spotting or swelling that I can see, no fever, and actually feeling a bit better now. I am 99% sure it's a sinus thing, I just never had this particular combo of symptoms before, and the "just on one side" thing was weirding me out. I saw an ENT doctor who wanted to roto-root out my sinuses a few years back, but I was (am) way too chicken to go through with it.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:23 AM on November 4, 2011

I think every single time I get sick (cold or flu) I have this. Either one side or the other. It's actually been a precursor to 'coming down with something", to the point of if I get rest and take lots of fluids as soon as I feel this, I can stave off the "something". I have also had it switch sides. I always assumed it was normal. I wouldn't worry, but I would wait on the flu shot.
posted by Vaike at 10:57 AM on November 4, 2011

I've had this for about a week, and so have a few coworkers. The off-again/on-again sore throat seems to be a major feature of whatever virus is currently circulating. My left ear and the left side of my throat have been quite a bit more affected than the right.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2011

I get this every time I have a sinus infection, based on what side I sleep on. It's a pain!
posted by good day merlock at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2011

I will get this problem when my allergies are particularly bad, and my sinuses are draining a great deal. My throat gets sore from the drainage. One side will get especially sore if this results in a tonsilith/tonsil stone. Pop it out and the soreness gets better fairly quickly. Try gargling with salt water, to see if that helps. It will cause no further harm, at any rate. wikipedia
posted by annsunny at 4:19 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Over the last few years, whenever I get a sore throat on one side it's caused by an inflammation of my gums behind my second molar, ie where my left lower wisdom tooth used to be. I have big pockets after my lowers were removed and the left in in particular gets angry from time to time. I work it with a sulka brush and listerine for a few days and it gets better.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:52 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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