Soothing a Sore Throat…. Be in the Know this Winter.
Pharyngitis, commonly known as a sore throat, is a symptom that signals an infection involving the back of the throat.
- Sore, dry, or scratchy throat
- Pain with swallowing
- Redness/Inflammation of the throat
What causes Pharyngitis?
The most common cause for sore throat is a virus (such as the common cold, influenza, mononucleosis, yes …even covid). Viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics, and treatment is only necessary to help relieve symptoms.
Less commonly, pharyngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. These infections require antibiotics. The most common bacterial infection is strep throat. It is imperative not to leave strep throat untreated, especially in children.
How is pharyngitis diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of pharyngitis, your doctor will check your throat looking for white patches, swelling, and redness and check for swollen lymph nodes in your neck. You should report any fever or cough as well.
If your doctor suspects that you have strep throat, they will likely take a rapid strep test in the office which can give you a result for strep throat in a few minutes. In some cases, a swab culture is sent to a lab for further testing.
If another cause of your pharyngitis is suspected, your doctor may order blood work looking for specific infections, such as mononucleosis or they may perform a COVID or flu test.
What can you do at home?
If a virus is causing your pharyngitis, there are things you can do at home that can help relieve symptoms:
- drinking plenty of fluids/ pedialyte popsicles
- gargling with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water)
- using a humidifier
- resting until you feel better
- throat lozenges can sooth pain
For pain and fever relief, consider taking over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen after speaking with your doctor.
If the infection is caused by strep or another bacterial infection, antibiotics are necessary. Amoxicillin and penicillin are the most commonly prescribed treatments for strep throat. It is important that you take the entire course of antibiotics for strep throat to prevent complications such as rheumatic fever.
How can you prevent pharyngitis?
- avoid sharing food, drinks, and eating utensils
- avoid individuals who are sick
- wash your hands often, especially before eating and after coughing or sneezing
- use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke