Categories: disorders

Pharyngitis: Causes, Symptoms, Medical treatment and its Prevention


Pharyngitis is the soreness of the pharynx, that is in the posterior of the throat. It is also called “sore throat.” Pharyngitis may cause itching in the throat and trouble in swallowing.

New cases of pharyngitis happen during the colder season of the year. It’s also one of the most causes of why individuals stay home from work. Pharyngitis can be caused by bacterial or viral infections.

Causes of Pharyngitis

There are numerous viral and bacterial agents that can cause pharyngitis. They include:

  • adenovirus, which is one of the causes of the common cold
  • chickenpox
  • measles
  • whooping cough
  • group A streptococcus

Viruses are the most common cause of sore throats. The most common cause of pharyngitis is 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.

The less common cause of pharyngitis is a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections require antibiotics. The most common bacterial infection of the throat is strep throat, which is group A streptococcus. Rare causes of bacterial pharyngitis include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and corynebacterium.

Risk Factors

Cold and flu seasons

Having close contact with someone who has a sore throat or cold


Frequent sinus infections



Sore throat



Joint pain and muscle aches

Skin rashes

Swollen lymph glands in the neck

GAS pharyngitis

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea, Vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Tonsils-pharyngeal inflammation

Viral Pharyngitis






Diagnosis of Pharyngitis

Physical exam

If you’re experiencing symptoms of pharyngitis, your doctor will look at your throat. They’ll check for any white or gray patches, swelling, and redness. Your doctor may also look in your ears and nose. To check for swollen lymph nodes, they will feel the sides of your neck.

Throat culture

If your doctor suspects that you have strep throat, they will likely take a throat culture. This involves using a cotton swab to take a sample of the secretions from your throat. Most doctors are able to do a rapid strep test in the office. This test will tell your doctor within a few minutes if the test is positive for streptococcus. In some cases, the swab is sent to a lab for further testing and results are not available for at least 24 hours.

Blood tests

If your doctor suspects another cause of your pharyngitis, they may order blood work. A small sample of blood from your arm or hand is drawn and then sent to a lab for testing. This test can determine whether you have mononucleosis. A complete blood count (CBC) test may be done to determine if you have another type of infection.

Home care

If a virus is causing your pharyngitis, home care can help relieve symptoms. Home care includes:

  • drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • eating warm broth
  • gargling with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water)
  • using a humidifier
  • resting until you feel better

For pain and fever relief, consider taking over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Throat lozenges may also be helpful in soothing a painful, scratchy throat.

Medical treatment

In some cases, medical treatment is necessary for pharyngitis especially when it is caused by a bacterial infection. For such instances, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source (CDC), amoxicillin and penicillin are the most commonly prescribed treatments for strep throat. It’s important that you take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning or worsening. An entire course of these antibiotics usually lasts 7 to 10 days.


To prevent pharyngitis:

  • avoid sharing food, drinks, and eating utensils
  • avoid individuals who are sick
  • wash your hands often, especially before eating and after coughing or sneezing
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water aren’t available
  • avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke.

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