Pharyngitis - bacterial; Sore throat
Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is discomfort, pain, or scratchiness in the throat. It often makes it painful to swallow.
Pharyngitis is caused by swelling in the back of the throat (pharynx) between the tonsils and the voice box (larynx).
Most sore throats are caused by colds, the flu, coxsackie virus or mono (mononucleosis).
Bacteria that can cause pharyngitis in some cases:
Most cases of pharyngitis occur during the colder months. The illness often spreads among family members and close contacts.
The main symptom is a sore throat.
Other symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and look at your throat.
A rapid test or throat culture to test for strep throat may be done. Other laboratory tests may be done, depending on the suspected cause. It is important to test for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) if you have been exposed to HIV and have a sore throat.
Most sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help viral sore throats. Using these medicines when they are not needed may lead to antibiotics not working as well when they are needed.
Sore throat is treated with antibiotics if:
Sore throat caused by the flu (influenza) may be helped by antiviral medicines.
The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:
Complications may include:
Contact your provider if:
Seek medical care right away if you have a sore throat and trouble breathing.
Flores AR, Caserta MT. Pharyngitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 59.
Sur DK, Plesa ML. Antibiotic use in acute upper respiratory tract infections. Am Fam Physician. 2022;106(6):628-636. PMID: 36521460 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/36521460/.
Tanz RR. Acute pharyngitis. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 409.
van Driel ML, De Sutter AI, Thorning S, Christiaens T. Different antibiotic treatments for group A streptococcal pharyngitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;3:CD004406. PMID: 33728634 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33728634/.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/8/2023
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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