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Pharyngitis is inflammation or swelling within the pharynx, which is in the back area of the throat. It’s most commonly referred to simply as “a sore throat.” Pharyngitis can also cause irritation, scratchiness, and coarseness within the throat and difficulty swallowing.
According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), pharyngitis-induced sore throat is one of the most frequent reasons for doctor visits. More incidents of pharyngitis occur during the colder months of the year. It’s also one of the most well-known reasons why people stay home from work. To accurately treat a sore throat, it’s important to identify its cause. Bacterial or viral infections may produce pharyngitis. The first step is finding out which of these it could, and that would direct treatment plan.
Causes of pharyngitis
Numerous viral and bacterial agents can cause pharyngitis. They include:
- Adenovirus, which is one of the causes of the common cold
- Croup, which is a childhood illness distinguished by a barking cough
- A whooping cough
- Group A Streptococcus
- Viruses are the most constant cause of sore throats. Pharyngitis is most regularly created by viral infections such as the common cold, influenza, or mononucleosis. Viral infections don’t react to antibiotics, and treatment is only needed to help relieve symptoms.
Less commonly, pharyngitis is produced by a bacterial infection. Bacterial infections require antibiotics. The most common bacterial infection of the throat is strep throat, which is caused by group A streptococcus. Rare causes of bacterial pharyngitis include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and Corynebacterium.
Frequent exposure to colds and cases of flu can increase your risk for pharyngitis. This is particularly common for people with jobs in healthcare, with frequent sinus infections and allergies. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also raise your risk.
In addition to a sore, dry, or raspy throat, a cold or flu may cause:
- A Runny nose
- Body aches
- Fever (a low-grade fever with a cold and higher-grade fever with influenza)
In addition to a sore throat, the indications of mononucleosis include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Severe fatigue
- Muscle aches
- No/limited Desire to Eat
- General exhaustion
Strep throat, another type of pharyngitis, can also cause:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Red throat with white or gray patches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- General malaise
- Unusual taste in the mouth
The timeframe of the infectious period will also be based on your underlying condition. If you have a viral contagion, you will be infectious until your fever runs its progression. If you have strep throat, you may be able to spread it from the onset until you’ve had 24 hours on antibiotics.
The common cold usually lasts less than ten days. Symptoms, encompassing fever, may top around three to five days. If pharyngitis is linked with a cold virus, you can assume your symptoms to last this duration of time.
How is pharyngitis diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of pharyngitis, your doctor will look at your throat. They’ll check for any white or gray patches, swelling, and redness. Your doctor may also look into your ears and nose. To check for enlarged lymph nodes, they will feel the sides of your neck.
If your physician presumes that you have strep throat, they will possibly take a throat culture. This includes using a cotton swab to take a sample of the secretions from your throat. Most doctors can do a rapid strep test in the office. This test will tell your physician within a few moments if the test is positive for streptococcus. In some cases, the swab is given to a lab for further testing and results are not available for at least 24 hours.
If your physician presumes another cause of your pharyngitis, they may order blood work. A small unit of blood from your arm or hand is drawn and then transferred to a lab for testing. This test can discover whether you have mononucleosis. A complete blood count (CBC) test may be done to determine if you have another type of infection.
Treatment: Home Care and Medication
If a virus is producing your pharyngitis, home care can help alleviate symptoms. Home care includes:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to counteract dehydration
- Eating warm broth
- Use warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water) to gargle.
- Use a humidifier
- Resting until you feel better
- For pain and fever relief, consider taking an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Throat lozenges can also be important in soothing a painful, scratchy throat.
Different types remedies are occasionally used to treat pharyngitis. However, you should contact your physician before using them to circumvent drug interactions or other health complications. Some of the most regularly used herbs include:
- Marshmallow root
- Slippery Elm
- Medical treatment
In some scenarios, medical treatment is required for pharyngitis. This is particularly the case if it’s produced by a bacterial infection. For such situations, your physician will prescribe antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), amoxicillin and penicillin are the usually prescribed treatments for strep throat. It’s essential that you take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning or worsening. An entire course of these antibiotics normally lasts 7 to 10 days.
Keeping yourself clean, through proper hygiene can prevent many cases of pharyngitis.
To prevent pharyngitis:
Do not share food, drinks, and eating utensils with anyone.
Try to keep limited contact with individuals who are sick
Wash your hands often, particularly before eating and after sneezing or coughing
Employ alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available
Stay away from the fumes and smoke. inhaling secondhand smoke and smoking
Most incidents of pharyngitis, fortunately, can be treated at home. However, some symptoms require a physician visit for further evaluation.
You should see your doctor if:
- You have a sore throat for more than a week
- have a fever greater than 100.4°F
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash has developed
- your symptoms do not subside after finishing your full course of antibiotics
- Your symptoms return after finishing your course of antibiotics