Sore throat, throat irritation, and difficulty swallowing are common symptoms of pharyngitis. These symptoms are caused by inflammation and infection of tissue in the throat.
Pharyngitis is caused by viruses or bacteria in the air, or from close contact with an infected person. Certain lifestyle behaviors may also contribute to throat inflammation, such as consuming too much fried, greasy, or spicy foods, drinking too much tea, coffee, alcohol, or carbonated drinks, eating at odd times, lying down immediately after eating, and smoking. All of these habits may, in addition to causing inflammation, cause infection to occur more easily due to the decrease in the body’s mechanisms for infection prevention.
Symptoms of pharyngitis are dependent upon the type of infection:
- Viral pharyngitis– Sore throat, especially when swallowing, slight redness of the throat, phlegm, and clear mucus (not green or yellow). Most patients first experience the symptoms of a common cold before developing a sore throat.
- Bacterial pharyngitis– Redness of the throat, white spots on the tonsils, fever, green or yellow phlegm, difficulty swallowing, voice changes, etc. This normally occurs in patients who have had a sore throat for several days consecutively.
Doctors will carry out an investigation that involves a thorough review of the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and any additional testing as deemed necessary.
- Medical History Review: Screening for risk factors such as any underlying diseases (e.g., diabetes or immunodeficiency).
- Physical Examination: Examinations of the throat, lymph nodes, and possibly, a nasal cavity as well.
- Additional tests, especially in severe cases, may include a throat swab culture that will be sent to the laboratory for testing.
Proper treatment targeted at the root cause of the condition will allow the patient to recover much quicker and avoid unnecessary side effects of treatment.
- In the case of a viral infection, symptoms usually improve on their own within 3-4 days. Treatment in this case is based on the symptoms and does not require the use of antibiotics. Patients should avoid fried/greasy foods, or strong-tasting foods, such as extremely sour or spicy foods. Patients should also refrain from drinking cold water and gargle frequently with plain water or warm salt water. Getting sufficient rest is also recommended.
- In the case of a bacterial infection, antibiotics are needed to reduce the duration of the infection, and should be taken in strict accordance with the doctor’s instructions.