Pharyngitis is a condition marked by inflammation of the pharynx which is located at the back of the throat. The condition is commonly known as sore throat. It usually causes scratchiness, pain, and/or irritation in the throat which typically aggravates at the time of swallowing.

Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by viral infections like flu or cold, etc. and such infections usually heal on their own. Pharyngitis caused by bacterial infections, such as strep throat, is uncommon and is treated with antibiotics. Rare causes of sore throat may need other additional treatments.

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Some of the common signs and symptoms of pharyngitis are listed below:

  • Scratchiness or pain in throat
  • Swallowing problems
  • Pain which deteriorates when talking or swallowing
  • Reddish swollen tonsils
  • Swollen and sore glands in the jaw and/or neck
  • Muffled, subdued, or hoarse voice
  • Pus or whitish patches on the tonsils

Pharyngitis caused by infections may cause additional symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Running nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Body pain and aches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • In rare cases, breathing problems

Is pharyngitis contagious?

Pharyngitis is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections and hence it is contagious. Sore throat causing viruses and bacteria are generally present in nasal discharge, mucus, and saliva. Hence, it can be easily transmitted from an infected person to another through nasal secretion or saliva droplets released by patients into the air while coughing, sneezing, etc. It can also be passed on during kissing.

Some such pharyngitis bacteria and viruses can live for long periods on objects such as brushes, towels, utensils, door knobs, and apparels, etc. Hence, contact with such infected items or objects can help spread the infection.

Covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, frequent washing of hands, and not sharing personal items can help prevent the transmission of the germs.

Causes of pharyngitis

The different causes of pharyngitis are mentioned below:

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  • Viral infections like influenza/flu, common cold, measles, mononucleosis, croup, and chickenpox.
  • Bacterial infections, the most common of which is strep throat causing bacteria group A streptococcus or Streptococcus pyogenes.
  • Dryness of air, often in heated buildings, can trigger scratchiness and roughness in the throat, usually in the mornings. People with chronic nasal congestion tend to breathe via the mouth which can increase the risk of pharyngitis marked by sore and dry throat
  • Allergic reactions to mold, pollen, dust, etc., can result in sore throat. It may worsen due to postnasal drip, which tends to cause inflammation and irritation of the throat.
  • GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition of the digestive system marked by upwards flow of stomach contents like acids and enzymes up the esophagus. Affected people may experience hoarse voice, heartburn, lump sensation in throat, and/or pharyngitis.
  • Eating hot and spicy foods, intake of alcohol, and chewing tobacco can cause throat irritation and increase risk to pharyngitis
  • The throat can also get irritated by outdoors air pollution as well as exposure to chemicals and cigarette smoke when indoors. This can result in chronic pharyngitis.
  • In some cases, flu-like symptoms and sore throat can be one of the early symptoms of HIV infection. HIV positive patients may also suffer from recurrent or chronic pharyngitis as part of secondary infections like cytomegalovirus infection or oral thrush. These non-serious common infections may pose severe health problems in people with impaired immune systems.
  • Constant yelling or shouting at concerts or sporting events; talking for a prolonged period without resting the throat; or talking loudly like in a bar, can result in straining of the throat muscles and increase the risk of sore throat or pharyngitis.
  • Malignant tumors of the tongue, throat, or larynx can cause pharyngitis. People with such tumors may also suffer from swallowing difficulties, hoarse voice, lump in neck, noisy respiration, and bloody phlegm or saliva.
  • In rare cases, abscess or infected tissue in throat can cause pharyngitis.

Pharyngitis – Pictures


  • It caused by viral infections does not need medical treatment as the illness persists for up to a week and resolves on its own. Doctors may suggest mild pain killer for alleviation of pain, soreness, and discomfort.
  • Pharyngitis caused by bacterial infections is usually treated with antibiotics. Patients need to adhere to the complete antibiotics course. Stopping the recommended dosage when the symptoms ease up can cause the infection to become worse, spread to other parts of the body, and increase the risk to health complications.

Pharyngitis – Home Remedies

The home remedies for this condition are as follows:

  • Avoiding alcohol and coffee
  • Drinking lots of water and other fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Gargling with salt water to alleviate soreness
  • Drinking comforting beverages like warm water with honey, broth, or eating ice pops, etc. to soothe the sore throat
  • Resting the throat and voice
  • Sitting in a steamy sauna or bathroom for 10-15 minutes
  • Using a cool-air humidifier to remove dry air that can irritate the throat and worsen pharyngitis
  • Quitting smoking


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