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Viral Pharyngitis

(Viral Sore Throat)

Definition

Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat.
Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
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Causes

Viral pharyngitis is may be caused by one of several viruses. It often occurs with other viral infections, such as a common cold or the flu.

Risk Factors

Viral pharyngitis is more common in children and adolescents. Other factors that may increase your chance of viral pharyngitis include:
  • Living or working in crowded places, such as daycare centers or schools
  • Poor hygeine
  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity due to:

Symptoms

Viral pharyngitis may cause:
  • Sore, red, swollen throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Throat ulcerations
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most viral sore throats are diagnosed based on the symptoms and an examination of the throat. Sometimes, the throat will be swabbed to make sure that the sore throat isn't due to a bacterial strep infection.

Treatment

There are no treatments to cure viral pharyngitis. Most cases of viral pharyngitis heal on their own within about 1 week.
Treatments to relieve symptoms include:

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Sore throat pain can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.

Self-Care

You can relieve symptoms by:
  • Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
  • Using throat lozenges.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids. Hot drinks and soups or cold fluids can be very soothing for a sore throat.
  • Using running a cool-mist humidifier. It can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of viral pharyngitis:
  • Practice good hygiene, including careful hand washing.
  • Don't share food or beverages with other people.
  • Avoid areas where people are smoking.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Bisno AL. Acute pharyngitis. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(3):205-211.

Coco A, Kleinhans E. Prevalence of primary HIV infection in symptomatic ambulatory patients. Ann Fam Med. 2005;3(5):400-404.

Frye R, Bailey J, et al. Clinical inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? J Fam Pract. 2011;60(5):293-294.

Murray RC, Chennupati SK. Chronic streptococcal and non-streptococcal pharyngitis. Infect Discord Drug Targets. 2012;12(4):281-285.

Pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 25, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Recognizing primary HIV-1 infection. Infect Med. 1999;16(2):104-108,110.

Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed September 30, 2014.

The respiratory tract and its infections. Harv Health Lett. 2010;35(4):1-4.

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