Pharyngitis involves inflammation of the pharynx which is situated in the rear part of the throat. It is often referred to as a sore throat that causes scratchiness in the throat and difficulty swallowing.
This condition is one of the reasons why many consult a doctor for assessment. In most cases, they occur during the colder months of the year. It is also one of the usual reasons why many stay home from work. The best way to treat a sore throat is to identify its causes. Remember that pharyngitis can be triggered by viral or bacterial infections.
What are the causes?
There are various bacterial and viral factors that can trigger the development of pharyngitis such as the following:
- Adenovirus is the usual cause of common cold
- Whooping cough
- Croup is a childhood illness characterized by a bark-like cough
Remember that viruses are the usual cause of pharyngitis particularly influenza, common cold or mononucleosis. The viral infections do not respond to antibiotics and treatment is only required to alleviate the symptoms.
In some cases, it can be triggered by a bacterial infection which requires antibiotics. The usual bacterial infection affecting the throat is a strep throat that is caused by the Group A streptococcus.
What are the indications of pharyngitis?
The signs and symptoms that occur with pharyngitis tends to vary depending on the underlying condition. Aside from a sore, dry or scratchy throat, the flu or common cold can cause the following:
- Runny nose
- Body aches
How is it diagnosed
Physical exam – if the symptoms of pharyngitis occur, the doctor will assess the throat for any white or gray patches, redness and swelling. The doctor will also check the nose and the ears as well as for swollen lymph nodes at the sides of the neck.
Throat culture – a throat culture is taken if strep throat is suspected. A cotton swab is used to take a sample of the throat secretions and a rapid strep test is performed.
Blood test – if another cause of pharyngitis is suspected, a blood test is required. A sample of blood is taken from the hand or arm and sent to the laboratory for testing to determine if mononucleosis is present.
If a virus is the cause of pharyngitis, home remedies can help alleviate the symptoms. The commonly used home remedies include the following:
- Warm broth
- Drinking more fluids to prevent dehydration
- Using a humidifier
- Gargle using warm salt water
- Adequate rest
For relief from pain and fever, over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given. In addition, a sore scratchy throat can be relieved with throat lozenges.
In some instances, medical care is needed especially if the cause is a bacterial infection. In such cases, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics particularly penicillin. The full course of the antibiotic must be completed to prevent the infection from recurring or becoming worse.