Painful Swallowing: Should I See An ENT Specialist?

Most of us have had an instance where it hurt to swallow. Our mothers used to say it happens when something goes down the “wrong pipe”. We accepted that when we were children, but as adults, we want to know exactly why it happens. Does it happen once and then go away? Or does it linger? Let’s look at painful swallowing and when to see an ENT specialist.

Woman experiencing painful swallowing.

Feeling The Pain

When it hurts to swallow, you may feel it in your mouth, your throat, esophagus, or the center of your chest. Odynophagia is the condition that causes painful swallowing, and although this is usually short-lived, it can be a symptom of many medical conditions. Let’s look at some typical causes.

Strep Throat

Strep is a bacterial infection that settles in your throat making it very painful to swallow. It can be accompanied by a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and pain within your mouth. Antibiotics from a doctor are the best way to improve all the symptoms.


Tonsillitis is a common condition that causes painful swallowing. This inflammation of the lymph nodes causes your tonsils to be swollen, you will most likely have a high fever, a painful neck and jaw, plus bad breath. Again, antibiotics are usually prescribed, but surgery to remove the tonsils may be recommended.


This is likely caused by an inflammation in the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or an allergic reaction can lead to very painful swallowing.

An Ulcer In The Esophagus

It can be painful to swallow if we have developed an ulcer in the esophagus from taking antibiotics, aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen.


Painful swallowing, fever, headache, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, fatigue, and muscle aches are all signs of mono, or the Epstein-Barr virus. This is very contagious, and you need a blood test to diagnose.

When To See An ENT Specialist

Don’t wait to see an ENT specialist like Coastal Ear, Nose & Throat in Savannah & Pooler, GA if you have painful swallowing in addition to any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in stools or saliva
  • Shortness of breath or lightheadedness
  • Weight loss
  • Lumps in your neck
  • Symptoms lasting more than one week
  • Hoarse voice

Coastal Ear, Nose & Throat can run tests to look for tumors in the throat.

Request an Appointment for Painful Swallowing Treatment

Contact Coastal Ear, Nose & Throat at (912) 355-2335 if you are experiencing painful swallowing.

Request Appointment