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Pharyngitis - sore throat

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Pharyngitis - bacterial; Sore throat

Causes

Pharyngitis is caused by swelling in the back of the throat (pharynx) between the tonsils and the (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 health care provider if:

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

References

Wessels MR. Streptococcal pharyngitis. N Engl J Med. 2011;354:648-655.

Frye R, Bailey J, Blevins AE. Clinical inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? J Fam Pract. 2011 May;60(5):293-4.

Shulman ST, Bisno AL, Clegg HW, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis and management of group A streptococcal pharyngitis: 2012 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2012;55(10):e86-e102.

van Driel ML, De Sutter AIM, Keber N, Habraken H, Christiaens T. Different antibiotic treatments for group A streptococcal pharyngitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;4:CD004406. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004406.pub3.


Review Date: 2/4/2014
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein 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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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