Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health.  Explore Lahey locations below or reach Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Beverly Hospital and Winchester Hospital.

by Carson-DeWitt R
(Viral Sore Throat)

Definition

Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat.

Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Viral pharyngitis is caused by a viral infection 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 chances of viral pharyngitis include:

  • Living or working in crowded places, such as daycare centers or schools
  • Poor hygiene
  • Cigarette smoking
  • 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. A sample of fluid at the back of the throat may be taken to make sure a bacterial infection, like strep, is not there.

Treatment

There are no treatments to cure viral infections. Most of these infection will go away on their own within about a week.

Treatments may help to relieve symptoms until you are better. Options include:

  • Over the counter pain medication—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with discomfort
    • Note : Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
  • Gargle with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
  • Use throat lozenges.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hot drinks and soups or cold fluids can be very soothing for a sore throat.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. It can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of viral pharyngitis:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Do this especially after blowing your nose or after caring for a child with a sore throat.
  • If someone in your home has a sore throat, keep their eating utensils and drinking glasses separate from those of other family members. Wash these objects in hot, soapy water.
  • If a toddler with a sore throat has been sucking on toys, wash the toys in soap and water.
  • Immediately get rid of used tissues, and then wash your hands.
  • If you have hay fever or another respiratory allergy, create a plan to manage allergies. This should include avoiding allergens and taking medication before exposure.

RESOURCES

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

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

The College of Family Physicians of Canada  http://www.cfpc.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, Blevins AE. 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 Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114913/Pharyngitis  . Updated August 25, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2017.

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 August 14, 2017.

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

Revision Information