Skip to Content



Pharyngitis, or sore throat, is inflammation of the tissues and structures in your pharynx (throat). Pharyngitis is most often caused by bacteria. It may also be caused by a cold or flu virus. Other causes include smoking, allergies, or acid reflux.


Call 911 for any of the following:

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

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You are drooling because it hurts too much to swallow.
  • Your fever is higher than 102˚F (39˚C) or lasts longer than 3 days.
  • You are confused.
  • You taste blood in your throat.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your throat pain gets worse.
  • You have a painful lump in your throat that does not go away after 5 days.
  • Your symptoms do not improve after 5 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Viral pharyngitis will go away on its own without treatment. Your sore throat should start to feel better in 3 to 5 days for both viral and bacterial infections. You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics treat a bacterial infection.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Gargle salt water. Mix ¼ teaspoon salt in an 8 ounce glass of warm water and gargle. This may help decrease swelling in your throat.
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquids than usual. Liquids may help soothe your throat and prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Use a cool-steam humidifier to help moisten the air in your room and calm your cough.
  • Soothe your throat with cough drops, ice, soft foods, or popsicles.

Prevent the spread of pharyngitis:

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Do not share food or drinks. Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

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

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Pharyngitis (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.