Viral Pharyngitis

(Viral Sore Throat)


Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat.

Sore Throat Due to Inflammation

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Viral pharyngitis is caused by a viral infection such as a common cold or the flu.

Risk Factors

Viral pharyngitis is more common in children and adolescents. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Living or working in crowded places
  • Not washing hands enough
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Lowered ability to fight infection due to:


Symptoms of viral pharyngitis may be:

  • Sore, red, swollen throat
  • Problems swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Lack of hunger
  • Being tired
  • Rashes


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis may be based on the symptoms and a throat exam. The throat may be swabbed. This is to rule out other causes, such as strep throat.


There are no specific treatments to cure viral pharyngitis. Most of these infections go away on their own in about a week. Treatments may help ease symptoms. Options may be:

  • Over the counter pain medicine—to ease discomfort
  • Warm salt water gargles—to ease sore throat
  • Throat lozenges
  • Warm drinks, soups, or cold fluids
  • A cool-mist humidifier—to soothe a dry or stuffy nose


The risk of viral pharyngitis may be reduced by:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Not sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses with someone who has a sore throat
  • Avoiding people who have a sore throat


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Frye R, Bailey J, Blevins AE. Clinical inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? J Fam Pract. 2011;60(5):293-294.
Murray RC, Chennupati SK. Chronic streptococcal and non-streptococcal pharyngitis. Infect Discord Drug Targets. 2012;12(4):281-285.
Pharyngitis - Approach to the Patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 6, 2021.
Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
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Accessed April 6, 2021.
Last reviewed April 2021 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/6/2021

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