Pharyngitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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If you’ve ever had a sore throat, chances are you were really suffering from pharyngitis. Pharyngitis is a condition that refers to the inflammation of your pharynx, the area in the back of your throat. For many people, the condition causes discomfort and may make it difficult to swallow. It’s a common condition that is more likely to occur during colder months due to the increase in viral and bacterial infections.

Pharyngitis Causes

Pharyngitis is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections, including the following:

  • Adenovirus, or Common Cold
  • Influenza
  • Whooping Cough
  • Mononucleosis
  • Group A Streptococcus
  • Chickenpox
  • Measles
  • Croup

Additionally, individuals working in certain jobs, such as healthcare, get exposed to environments that make them more vulnerable to pharyngitis.

Pharyngitis Symptoms

If you’re infected with pharyngitis, you can expect to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sore, Dry, or Itchy Throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Runny Nose
  • Chills
  • Body Aches
  • Fever
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • General Malaise
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Red Throat
  • Nausea

Oftentimes pharyngitis is contagious and will remain so until your fever ends or until you’ve completed an antibiotic regime.

Pharyngitis Diagnosis

If you think you may have pharyngitis, visit your doctor. To make a proper diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and examine your throat for swelling, redness, and white or gray patches. They will also check your lymph nodes, nose, and ears. If your doctor believes you may have strep throat, they will take a throat culture to verify their suspicions. 

In some cases, your doctor may order blood work if they suspect another cause behind your pharyngitis. Typically, blood tests help diagnose mononucleosis.

Pharyngitis Treatment

If your pharyngitis is the result of a viral infection, antibiotics won’t work as a cure. Instead, your doctor will recommend the following forms of treatment to relieve any discomfort:

  • Staying Hydrated
  • Drinking Warm Broth
  • Using a Humidifier
  • Rest
  • Gargling with Saltwater

Additionally, over-the-counter pain and fever-relief medication can also help, including Advil and Tylenol. Some may even find relief by sucking on throat lozenges.

If your pharyngitis is the result of a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin.

Pharyngitis Prognosis

For many people, pharyngitis is not a serious condition and usually clears up after proper rest and hydration. At most, you may miss a few days of work or school. However, if you ever experience the following, you may want to visit your doctor for a follow-up appointment:

  • Sore Throat Lasting Longer Than a Week
  • Fever Exceeding 100.4 Degrees F
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Appearance of Rash
  • Symptoms Remain or Return After Full Course of Antibiotics

Like many medical conditions, you’re your biggest advocate. No one knows your body like you do. If you’re worried something may be wrong or have questions or concerns about pharyngitis, reach out to your doctor’s office for peace of mind.