Carolinas HealthCare System

Health Information - Disease

Search Health Information   
 
 
 

Pharyngitis

Definition

Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow.

See also:

Alternative Names

Pharyngitis - bacterial; Sore throat

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pharyngitis is caused by swelling (inflammation) of the pharynx, which is in the back of the throat, between the tonsils and the voicebox (larynx).

Most sore throats are cauesd by a viral infection, such as the cold or flu. Some viruses can cause specific types of sore throat, such as coxsackie infection or mononucleosis.

Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis include Group A streptococcus, which leads to strep throat in some cases.

Other, less-common bacteria that cause sore throats include corynebacterium, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the colder months. The illness often spreads among family members.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a sore throat.

Other symptoms may include:

Signs and tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and look at your throat.

A rapid test or throat culture to test for strep throat may be done. Other laboratory tests may be done depending on the suspected cause.

Treatment

Most sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help. Using them to treat viral infections helps strengthen bacteria and make them resistant to antibiotics.

Sore throats should only be treated with antibiotics if a strep test is positive. Strep cannot be accurately diagnosed by symptoms or a physical exam alone. For more information, see: Strep throat

The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:

  • Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey.
  • Gargle several times a day with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup water).
  • Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles.
  • Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges. Young children should not be given such products because they can choke on them.
  • A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.
  • Try over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen.

Complications

Complications may include:

  • Ear infection
  • Mastoiditis
  • Sinusitis
  • Peritonsillar abscess

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if:

  • You develop a sore throat that does not go away after several days
  • You have a high fever, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, or a rash

Seek immediate medical care if you have a sore throat and trouble breathing.

References

Wessels MR. Streptococcal pharyngitis.N Engl J Med. 2011;364:648-655.

Frye R, Bailey J, Blevins AE. Clinical inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? J Fam Pract. 2011 May;60(5):293-4.

 


Review Date: 1/8/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 
About Carolinas HealthCare System
Who We Are
Leadership
Community Benefit
Corporate Financial Information
Diversity & Inclusion
Annual Report
Foundation
Patient Links
Pay Your Bill
Hospital Pre-Registration
Patient Rights
Privacy Policy
Financial Assistance
Quality & Value Reports
Insurance
Careers
Join Carolinas HealthCare System
Physician Careers

For Employees
Carolinas Connect
Connect with Us
Watch Carolinas HealthCare on YoutubeFollow Carolinas HealthCare on TwitterLike Carolinas HealthCare on FacebookContact Carolinas HealthCareJoin Carolinas HealthCare on LinkedInGo to our mobile website.