Pharyngitis- Causes, Prevention and Home Remedies of Sore Throat

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
July 15, 2020

That scratchy, painful, dry and irritating feeling with difficulty to swallow is an experience we all have had minimum once in our life. We all know it is the sore throat but medically it can be divided into 3 types, depending upon the area it affects.

  • Pharyngitis: It is the presence of inflammation in the Pharynx (a tube which is part of the throat, behind the mouth and nasal cavity)
  • Tonsillitis: Inflammation of the tonsils (pair of soft tissue masses located on each side of the back of the throat) causing swelling and redness in them. 
  • Laryngitis: Inflammation of the larynx (commonly called the voice box; an organ in the top of the neck involved in breathing, producing sound and protecting the trachea against food aspiration), causing its swelling and redness.

The most common type amongst these is the Pharyngitis. Sore throats are very common during monsoon and winter season and are caused by viral infections such as the common cold, the flu, mumps, measles and chickenpox. Bacterial infections can also cause sore throat, amongst which, strep throat is the most common; one caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Allergies, dry air, chemicals, smoke and straining your throat muscles due to yelling or speaking for a long time can irritate the throat as well and cause a sore throat.

Symptoms of Pharyngitis:

Apart from the sore throat, Pharyngitis can have associated symptoms depending upon the illness causing it:

  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Headache
  • Joint ache and muscle soreness
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck

Risk Factors:

There are many risk factors associated causing the sore throat, which includes: 

  • Cold and flu seasons
  • Active and passive smoking
  • Coming in close contact with someone with a sore throat
  • Weakened immunity
  • Allergies 
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Children and teens are more prone to sore throat

Diagnosing a Sore throat:

When you go to your doctor, they mostly assess your presenting symptoms, along with it they check your back of the throat for redness, swelling and white patches. The doctor might also feel the sides of your neck to see if you have swollen glands. Breathing might also be assessed with a stethoscope.
If your doctor suspects you to have a Strep throat, he might ask you to get a throat culture to confirm it. If the test comes out to be positive, it is likely to be the bacterial infection i.e. strep throat. In this case, he prescribes you with a course of antibiotics to treat the strep throat and to prevent further complications. It is imperative to complete the course as suggested by your practitioner. If the test comes out to be negative, it is more likely to be caused by a viral agent.
If the obvious diagnosis is not made, the practitioner might refer you to a specialist which treats conditions of ears, nose and throat (E.N.T surgeon or an otolaryngologist). 

Pharyngitis diagnosis

Can a sore throat be avoided or prevented?

The only possible means to prevent the occurrence of sore throat is improving the immunity and avoid getting sick. Follow these below tips to do so:

  1. Maintain proper hygiene, washing hands regularly, keep your hands away from your face and mouth.
  2. Stay away from people who are sick.
  3. Eat healthily and avoid eating at unhygienic places.
  4. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
  5. Eat fruits rich in Vitamin C.
  6. Sleep well and reduce your stress levels.
  7. Stay away from environmental allergies that can cause sore throat.
  8. Try not to strain your throat muscles by speaking for too long, take breaks with few sips of water.

Home remedies to help cure the Sore throat:

Mild sore throats can be easily treated with the help of a few home remedies. These may not instantly cure it but will surely provide good relief. Try a few tips like:

  1. Gargle with a glass of warm salt water multiple times in a day. This helps loosen the mucus and draws excess fluid out of your inflamed throat tissue.
  2. Get ample rest to give a chance to your immunity to fight the infection.
  3. Drink warm liquids that help soothe the throat such as hot teas with honey, soups, warm water with lemon or herbal teas.
  4. Sucking over-the-counter throat lozenges or hard candy helps to soothe the throat as well as keeping it moist with saliva. Avoid giving them to the kids as it might get choked up.
  5. Avoid alcohol, smoking and other pollutants.
  6. Turn on a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air. Taking 
  7. Give your throat/voice some rest if it has got irritated due to speaking for long hours.
  8. Warm compress on the sides of the throat can help relieve the pain.

One can follow a few of the above tips to prevent the occurrence of a sore throat if susceptible to during certain seasons.

When to See a Doctor?

Most of the sore throats caused by viral infections get better in two to 5 days. Although one should not wait to see a doctor if presenting with the following symptoms:

  • A severe sore throat that doesn’t reduce in a few days
  • Fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Swollen glands
  • Trouble is breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing or opening the mouth
  • Blood in the saliva or sputum 
  • Earache
  • Sore joints
  • Lump in the neck
  • Stiff neck

Your medical practitioner shall help rule out other conditions and give a confirm diagnosis.