Definition

Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat.

Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
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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.

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