Viral Pharyngitis

(Viral Sore Throat)

Definition

Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat.

Sore Throat Due to Inflammation

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Causes    TOP

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

Risk Factors    TOP

Viral pharyngitis is more common in children and adolescents. Other factors that may increase your chances of viral pharyngitis include:

  • Living or working in crowded places, such as daycare centers or schools
  • Poor hygiene
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity due to:

Symptoms    TOP

Viral pharyngitis may cause:

  • Sore, red, swollen throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Throat ulcerations
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most viral sore throats are diagnosed based on the symptoms and an examination of the throat. A sample of fluid at the back of the throat may be taken to make sure a bacterial infection, like strep, is not there.

Treatment    TOP

There are no treatments to cure viral infections. Most of these infection will go away on their own within about a week.

Treatments may help to relieve symptoms until you are better. Options include:

  • Over the counter pain medication—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with discomfort
    • Note : Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
  • Gargle with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
  • Use throat lozenges.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hot drinks and soups or cold fluids can be very soothing for a sore throat.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. It can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chance of viral pharyngitis:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Do this especially after blowing your nose or after caring for a child with a sore throat.
  • If someone in your home has a sore throat, keep their eating utensils and drinking glasses separate from those of other family members. Wash these objects in hot, soapy water.
  • If a toddler with a sore throat has been sucking on toys, wash the toys in soap and water.
  • Immediately get rid of used tissues, and then wash your hands.
  • If you have hay fever or another respiratory allergy, create a plan to manage allergies. This should include avoiding allergens and taking medication before exposure.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
http://www.entnet.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

References:

Bisno AL. Acute pharyngitis. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(3):205-211.
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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. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114913/Pharyngitis. Updated August 25, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Recognizing primary HIV-1 infection. Infect Med. 1999;16(2):104-108,110.
Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 14, 2017.
The respiratory tract and its infections. Harv Health Lett. 2010;35(4):1-4.
Last reviewed January 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/8/2018

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