What is Viral Pharyngitis?

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  • Written By: Pamela Pleasant
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Viral pharyngitis typically refers to a sore throat. It can cause inflammation between the tonsils and the larynx and is caused by a viral infection. In most cases, it only causes throat discomfort but occasionally other symptoms can also be present. Viral pharyngitis can also affect the lungs and the bowels and cause joint or muscle pain. Swollen lymph nodes can sometimes also be present in the neck area.

In order to diagnose viral pharyngitis, a physician must examine the throat and perform a throat swab test. This is mainly done to rule out a bacterial infection that can also cause sore throats. A swab culture can be viewed under a microscope to find the offending organism. If viral pharyngitis is present, anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly prescribed. Antibiotics will not cure this type of infection and these drugs can worsen the pharyngitis symptoms.

Viruses that produce a sore throat can enter the body through the nasal passages. They can also irritate the nasal lining, increasing mucus. This produces a stuffy nose and narrow nasal passages. The mucus itself does not cause the throat to become sore. Nerve endings in the throat are activated and this produces the pain.


There is no known cure for viral pharyngitis. Anesthetic mouthwash and aspirin are commonly used to alleviate any painful systems. Rinsing the throat with salt water or an antiseptic can treat the viral infection. Children who are suffering with pharyngitis caused by the flu should not take aspirin because it can cause Reye syndrome. There are many viruses that can cause viral pharyngitis.

Mononucleosis is a viral infection that causes a sore throat. It can also cause a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. If it occurs in the teen years, it can develop into infectious mononucleosis. Because there is no known cure, the infection can cause painful symptoms for up to two months.

People who suffer with human immune deficiency virus or HIV disease can easily develop viral pharyngitis. The condition mimics mononucleosis and typically affects people who were newly diagnosed with the disease. In fact, a sore throat for a long period of time can indicate an HIV infection.

Children are more likely to acquire pharyngitis because they can be easily infected by other children. It also affects as many men as it does women. Viral infections of the respiratory tract are often responsible for viral pharyngitis.


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