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January 31, 2024

The throat, a vital pathway for communication and nourishment, can become the battleground for various discomforts, and one common adversary is pharyngitis.

What is pharyngitis?

Pharyngitis, commonly known as a sore throat, is when the pharynx becomes inflamed, causing throat discomfort. It’s often a symptom, not a standalone condition. 

Fungal pharyngitis may occur in those with weakened immune systems or prolonged use of steroids and antibiotics. Allergies, chronic mouth breathing, dry indoor air, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and muscle strain from voice use can also contribute to sore throats.

What causes pharyngitis?

Pharyngitis can result from a variety of bacterial and viral infections. Among them are:

1.  Viral Infections:

It is typically triggered by viral infections like:

·       Common cold viruses

·       Influenza (flu) viruses

·       Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

·       Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

·       Condition like mononucleosis

2.  Bacterial Infections:

·       Corynebacterium diphtheriae (causing diphtheria)

·       Streptococcus bacteria (leading to strep throat)

3.  Fungal pharyngitis:

·       May occur in those with weakened immune systems or prolonged use of steroids and antibiotics.

4.  Environmental Irritants:

·       Smoke

·       Air pollutants

·       Allergens

5.  Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

·       Stomach acid irritating the throat

Other causes include:

·      Allergies

·      chronic mouth breathing

·      dry indoor air

·      muscle strain from voice 

What are the symptoms of pharyngitis?

Usually, the incubation phase lasts between two and five days. Pharyngitis symptoms can differ based on the underlying ailment.

Apart from experiencing a sore, dry, or scratchy throat, a cold or flu can manifest in various ways, leading to:

  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • General malaise
  • Rash

Additionally, strep throat, a different form of pharyngitis, can present with:

  • Red throat with white or gray patches
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusual taste in the mouth

The time you can spread an illness depends on the type. For viral infections, you’re contagious until the fever goes away. Strep throat stays contagious from the start until 24 hours after taking antibiotics.

The common cold usually lasts less than 10 days, with symptoms peaking in three to five days. If pharyngitis is connected to a cold virus, your symptoms will follow this timeframe.

How is pharyngitis treated?

The treatment varies according to the cause. Viral pharyngitis typically resolves on its own. Relief measures can ease symptoms. This includes:

·      saltwater gargles

·      pain relievers

·      increased fluid intake

Bacterial pharyngitis is treated with antibiotics, while antifungal medications are used for fungal pharyngitis. Prompt antibiotic treatment is crucial for strep throat to prevent potential complications like:

·      kidney issues 

·      rheumatic fever

Treatment for other causes is determined through a comprehensive evaluation in the clinic.

When to see your doctor

The majority of pharyngitis can be treated at home. However, some symptoms need a doctor’s visit for additional evaluation.

You should consult a doctor if:

·      You have a temperature of more than 100.4°F.

·      You’ve had a sore throat for over a week.

·      You get a new rash.

·      Your lymph nodes are inflamed.

·      Your symptoms reappear after you finish your antibiotic course.

·      After finishing your antibiotic course, your symptoms do not improve.

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