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Pharyngitis Symptoms & Treatments

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Pharyngitis Symptoms & Treatments

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.

February 8, 2019 Read Time - 5 minutes

Pharyngitis is a condition that refers to inflammation in the back of the throat. Any inflammation of the pharynx causes irritation and difficulty swallowing. Pain ranges from mild to severe depending on the exact cause of your sore throat.

The most common symptoms to arise first are dryness and burning or scratching sensations. This can be accompanied by tenderness and difficulty swallowing. A sore throat is inflamed, exhibiting reddening and swelling.

There are different causes of pharyngitis and each needs different treatment. If yours is caused by the flu, it’ll probably go away with time. Immune boosters always help speed things up. A severe acute case of pharyngitis or a recurring sore throat may be caused by bacteria and require more specific treatment.

Here’s a look at the different types of pharyngitis, and what you can do to sooth the pain and find treatment.

General Symptoms of Pharyngitis

Many symptoms of pharyngitis are mild, involving slight congestion and throat irritation. Anything that doesn’t heal or anything manifesting extreme pain needs to be diagnosed by a doctor

The most common symptoms of pharyngitis are:

  • Reddening of the throat
  • Reddening of the tonsils
  • Reddening of the pharynx
  • Swollen lymph nodes and glands
  • Hoarse, scratchy voice
  • High fever
  • Raw, uncomfortable cough
  • Respiratory difficulty
  • Drooling
  • Rash in the throat
  • Blood in phlegm or saliva
  • Nausea
  • Itching or burning sensation in the throat
  • White or gray patches of tissue in the throat
  • Appetite loss
  • Strange tastes in the mouth
  • Pain while talking or swallowing

Common Causes of Pharyngitis

There are a number of physical ailments that can cause pharyngitis. The common cold and strep throat are the most common culprits. Allergies, exposure to extreme cold, and trauma to the throat can all cause a sore throat as well.

Let’s take a closer look at all the possible causes of pharyngitis.

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Viral Infections

Colds, the flu, and even measles are typical causes of pharyngitis. Other viruses often responsible for pharyngitis include the coronavirus, rhinovirus, and viruses of the orthomyxovirus family.

In rare cases, infectious mononucleosis can be the root cause. Otherwise known as glandular fever, this condition is typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This is better known as mono – the kissing virus.

The immune system fends off most minor viral infections within ten days or less. If your sore throat lasts longer, you need to see a medical professional. You are likely suffering from a bacterial infection and antibiotics will be needed to clear your condition.

Bacterial Infections

A large number of pharyngitis cases are caused by the streptococcus bacterium, this is where ‘strep throat’ derives its name. Other bacterial infections like gonorrhea, Corynebacterium, and chlamydia can also cause pharyngeal inflammation.

Most bacterial pharyngitis infections occur during late spring and early winter. At times, a suspected bacterial infection can be fungal candida instead. A diagnosis and tissue swab will confirm the cause.

Antibiotics for pharyngitis will clear up most bacterial infections within two weeks or less. An online doctor will be able to prescribe the right antibiotic for the specific type of bacteria causing your sore throat.

Read: Is a Sore Throat a Symptom of COVID-19?

Other Causes

Other key causes of pharyngitis include:

  • Allergies
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Chemical irritants
  • Smoke
  • Muscle strain
  • Physical trauma
  • Gastric reflux
  • Dryness due to extreme cold
  • Dryness due to extreme heat
  • Tumor growth

Diagnosing Pharyngitis

Any pharyngeal ulceration will indicate pharyngitis. A doctor will inspect your throat looking for any inflammation. You will also have your temperature taken and your glands inspected. If there is a severe change in color or any white/grey tissue on or toward the pharynx, a tissue sample may be taken. A swab gives a definite result within minutes, awarding you the right medication. Should any ambiguity remain, a blood test will confirm what type of pharyngitis you have.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Who’s at Risk for Pharyngitis?

Smokers are automatically at a higher risk of pharyngitis. The inflammation caused by smoke inhalation and the body’s response to carcinogens can cause a terribly sore throat. Those who have been diagnosed with the herpes simplex virus are also at high risk of recurring pharyngitis.

When to See a Doctor if You have Pharyngitis?

If any of your symptoms last for longer than ten days, then it is time to see a doctor.

Any excessive swelling or excruciating pain is not normal and must be treated. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing or are unable to swallow (even liquid) then seek treatment. Those who have received a prescription should find relief within four to five days. If not, go back to your doctor so that you can get the right treatment.

Pharyngitis Treatments

The most commonly used pharyngitis treatments are painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin all make good choices and will lower pain.

If your condition persists, then you’ll be prescribed an antibiotic and painkillers. Throat lozenges are sometimes also given, as well as soothing rubs, and cough medicine.

At the first sign of a sore throat, turn to PlushCare to treat pharyngitis online. A real-time video diagnosis will put you in touch with a healthcare professional. After a quick diagnosis, your prescription will be electronically sent to the pharmacy of your choice. If you need to see a specialist, a consultation with a nearby physician is arranged. It could not be easier, or quicker, to receive the devoted attention that you need.

Read More About Pharyngitis Symptoms and Treatment

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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