• Viral Pharyngitis

    (Viral Sore Throat)


    Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat caused by a virus.
    Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The following viruses are most likely to cause a sore throat:

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of getting viral pharyngitis include:
    • Age: children
    • Cigarette smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
    • Living or working in crowded places such as:
      • Daycares
      • Schools
      • Military bases
    • Diabetes
    • Lowered immunity due to:
      • Excess fatigue
      • Poor eating habits
      • Poor hygiene
      • Recent illness


    Symptoms of viral pharyngitis include:
    • Sore, red, swollen throat
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Decreased appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears


    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. Sometimes, the throat will be swabbed to make sure that the sore throat isn't due to a strep infection. Strep infections require treatment with antibiotics.


    There are no treatments to cure a viral sore throat. Most cases of viral pharyngitis heal naturally within about one week.
    Treatments to relieve symptoms include:

    Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

    Sore throat pain can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
    • Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.


    • Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
    • Using throat lozenges every couple of hours can help relieve sore throat and cough.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. Hot drinks and soups can be very soothing for a sore throat.
    • Consider running a cool-mist humidifier. It can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion.


    To reduce your chance of getting a viral sore throat:
    • Practice good hygiene, including careful hand washing.
    • Don't share food or beverages with other people.
    • Avoid areas where people are smoking.
    Viral sore throat is diagnosed when a sore throat is present and strep is considered unlikely. Even in the absence of strep, some types of sore throats need further tests or treatment.
    Be sure to seek care if your sore throat is worsening. Call your doctor if you have new or serious symptoms, especially difficulty breathing, weakness, chills, or a sore throat that lasts longer than you or your doctor expect.


    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org

    American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org


    The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Bisno AL. Acute pharyngitis. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 18;344(3):205-11.

    Coco A, Kleinhans E. Prevalence of primary HIV infection in symptomatic ambulatory patients. Ann Fam Med. 2005;3(5):400-404.

    Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 2001 ed. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins; 2001.

    Pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 29, 2012. Accessed March 12, 2013.

    Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. Churchill Livingstone, Inc.; 2000.

    Recognizing primary HIV-1 infection. Infect Med. 1999;16(2):104-108,110.

    Revision Information

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