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Pharyngitis is swelling of the inside of your throat, called the pharynx. It may cause a sore throat or pain when you swallow. Pharyngitis is often caused by a cold or flu virus. It may also be caused by bacteria such as strep.



Your sore throat should feel better within 3 to 5 days without treatment if it is caused by a virus. You may need the following:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics help fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your primary healthcare provider tells you to, even if you feel better. Your throat should feel better within 5 days after you start taking antibiotics.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines decrease pain and fever. They are available without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is best for you. Ask how much to take and how often to take it.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Gargle salt water: Mix ¼ teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water and gargle. This may help reduce swelling in your throat.

  • Drink more liquids: Cold or warm drinks may help soothe your throat. Drinking liquids can also help prevent dehydration.

  • Humidify your room: Use a cool-steam humidifier to help moisten the air in your room and calm your cough.

  • Soothe your throat: Cough drops, ice, soft foods, or popsicles may help soothe your throat.

  • Rest your throat as much as possible: Try not to use your voice. This may irritate your throat and worsen your symptoms.

  • Prevent the spread of germs: Pharyngitis spreads easily from one person to another. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Do not share food or drinks. This will help prevent the spread of germs.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain or throat soreness worsens.

  • Your symptoms do not improve after 5 days.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing because your throat is swollen or sore.

  • You are drooling because it hurts too much to swallow.

  • You have a painful lump in your throat that does not go away after 5 days.

  • Your fever is higher than 102˚F (39˚C) or lasts longer than 3 days. This may be a sign of a more serious infection.

  • You have confusion.

  • You have blood in your throat or ear.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.