Patients who complain of a sore throat should expect to get comfortable in the waiting room during their ER visits. Two of the more common diagnoses made in the ER are acute upper respiratory infections and acute pharyngitis, but neither are life-threatening conditions. While a sore throat is uncomfortable, it's often caused by a viral or bacterial infection and treated either by antibiotics -- if it's bacterial -- or with time and rest if it's viral.
"A sore throat is typically not urgent or an emergency, but occasionally it can be. For example, there could be an abscess in the throat," explains Dr. Niels Rathlev, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.