Pharyngitis - sore throat

Definition

Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow.

Causes

Pharyngitis is caused by swelling in the back of the throat (pharynx) between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx).

Most sore throats are caused by colds, the flu, coxsackie virus or mono (mononucleosis).

Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis in some cases:

Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the colder months. The illness often spreads among family members and close contacts.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a sore throat.

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and look at your throat.

A rapid test or throat culture to test for strep throat may be done. Other laboratory tests may be done, depending on the suspected cause.

Treatment

Most sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help viral sore throats. Using these medicines when they are not needed leads to antibiotics not working as well when they are needed.

Sore throat is treated with antibiotics if:

Sore throat caused by the flu (influenza) may be helped by antiviral medicines.

The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Seek medical care right away if you have a sore throat and trouble breathing.


Review Date: 9/24/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.