Viral Pharyngitis
En Español (Spanish Version)

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 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 getting viral pharyngitis include:

  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Living or working in crowded places, such as daycare centers or schools
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity due to:
Symptoms
Viral pharyngitis may cause:

  • Sore, red, swollen throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
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 one week.

Treatments to relieve symptoms include:

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
Sore throat pain can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • 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 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 getting viral pharyngitis, take these steps:

  • 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 Family Physicians

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

CANADIAN RESOURCES:
The College of Family Physicians of Canada


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Last Reviewed September 2013



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