Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is pharyngitis?

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.

What signs and symptoms may occur with pharyngitis?

  • Sore throat or pain when you swallow
  • Fever, chills, and body aches
  • Hoarse or raspy voice
  • Cough, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach and loss of appetite
  • Mild neck stiffness
  • Swollen glands that feel like hard lumps when you touch your neck
  • White and yellow pus-filled blisters in the back of your throat

How is pharyngitis diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider about your symptoms. He may look inside your throat and feel your neck. You may also need the following tests:

  • A throat culture may show which germ is causing your sore throat. A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of your throat.
  • Blood tests may be used to show if another medical condition is causing your sore throat.

How is pharyngitis treated?

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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my 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 decrease your cough.
  • Soothe your throat with cough drops, ice, soft foods, or popsicles.

How can I 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.

Call 911 for any of the following:

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

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 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

Further information

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