Disease, Condition & InjuryEars, nose & throatHead & neck conditions

Viral Pharyngitis

(Viral Sore Throat)

Viral pharyngitis – Definition

Viral pharyngitis is a sore, inflamed throat caused by a virus.

Viral pharyngitis – Causes

The following viruses are most likely to cause a sore throat:

  • Rhinovirus
  • Coronavirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Respiratory syncytial virus

Viral pharyngitis – Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

Risk factors include:

  • Age: children
  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Living or working in close quarters such as:
    • Daycare
    • School
    • Military forces
  • Diabetes
  • Lowered immunity due to:
    • Excess fatigue
    • Poor eating habits
    • Poor hygiene
    • Recent illness

Viral pharyngitis – Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Sore, red, swollen throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears

Viral pharyngitis – Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Most viral sore throats are diagnosed based on the symptoms and examination of the throat. Sometimes the throat will be swabbed to make sure that the sore throat isn’t due to strep infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics.

Viral pharyngitis – Treatment

There are no treatments to cure a viral sore throat. Most cases of viral pharyngitis heal on their own within about a week’s time.

Treatments to relieve symptoms until the infection heals, include:

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Sore throat pain can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Note : Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.


  • Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
  • Using throat lozenges every couple of hours can help relieve sore throat and cough.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hot drinks and soups can be very soothing for a sore throat.
  • Consider running a cool-mist humidifier. It can help keep your nasal passages moist and reduce congestion, two factors that can worsen a sore throat.

Viral pharyngitis – Prevention

To reduce your chance of getting a viral sore throat:

  • Practice good hygiene, including careful hand washing.
  • Don’t share food or beverages with other people.
  • Avoid areas where people are smoking.

Viral sore throat is a “diagnosis of exclusion” made when sore throat is present and strep is regarded as unlikely. Even in the absence of strep, some types of sore throats need further tests or treatment.

Be sure to seek care if your sore throat is worsening, is associated with new, or serious symptoms, especially difficulty breathing, weakness, chills, or is not resolving within the time frame that your doctor predicted.

Related Articles

Back to top button