PHARYNGITIS (SORE THROAT)
Pharyngitis is inflammation of the pharynx, which is in the back of the throat.
It’s most often referred to simply as “sore throat.” Pharyngitis can also cause scratchiness in the throat and difficulty swallowing. In order to properly treat a sore throat, it’s important to identify its cause. Pharyngitis may be caused by bacterial or viral infections.
Viruses are the most common cause of sore throats. Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by viral infections such as the common cold, influenza, or mononucleosis. Viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics, and treatment is only necessary to help relieve symptoms.
Less commonly, pharyngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections require antibiotics. The most common bacterial infection of the throat is strep throat, which is caused by group A streptococcus.
The main symptom of pharyngitis is a sore throat and pain with swallowing. In infectious pharyngitis, other symptoms vary depending on whether the infection is viral or bacterial (usually strep throat):
Viral pharyngitis — Sore throat often is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
Strep throat — Strep throat and other forms of bacterial pharyngitis cause sore throat, pain with swallowing and a red throat. These symptoms tend to be more severe with Strep throat compared to viral pharyngitis. Other symptoms that often occur with Strep throat include:
The appropriate treatment for pharyngitis varies depending on its underlying cause.
For bacterial infections, a doctor may prescribe a person a course of oral antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or penicillin. The antibiotics aim to prevent complications, such as rheumatic fever or kidney disease, not to treat the sore throat. It is essential to complete the entire course of antibiotics to ensure the infection has cleared and to prevent reinfection.
Viral pharyngitis does not respond to antibiotics, but will typically clear up on its own. However, over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and fever.