Pharyngitis: Is It Viral? Definition, Symptoms, Treatment

Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the larynx. Very contagious, there are many forms: chronic pharyngitis and acute pharyngitis. What is their duration and treatment?

Pharyngitis: Is It Viral? Definition, Symptoms, Treatment
Pharyngitis: Is It Viral? Definition, Symptoms, Treatment

Definition: what is pharyngitis?

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Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx. Located towards the back of the mouth, the pharynx connects the respiratory and digestive tracts and therefore, it is involved in breathing, swallowing, phonation and hearing.

There are two types of pharyngitis. Acute pharyngitis relates to angina and it is from an infectious origin: it is mostly viral (90% of cases), but sometimes bacterial (most commonly via streptococcus).

Chronic pharyngitis has multiple possible causes. These include alcohol consumption, tobacco use, repeated exposure to pollution, a lack of iron or too much strain on the pharynx, for example during singing or long discussions.

Symptoms: how to recognise pharyngitis

The most notable symptoms of pharyngitis are a sore throat, pain when swallowing and a hoarseness of the voice. They also include a mild fever, a cough, headaches, swollen glands, a runny nose and feeling weak.

It should be noted that the symptoms are less severe with chronic pharyngitis than with acute pharyngitis and are located around the throat. They are generally accompanied by a dry throat which is constantly needing to be cleared.

Pharyngitis can also cause many complications. The most frequently encountered is nasopharyngitis, but this can develop into sinusitis, otitis or laryngitis. In the most serious cases, rheumatic fever can appear which can have articular and cardiac repercussions.

Duration and spreading of pharyngitis

Acute pharyngitis is very common and doesn’t last longer than a few days although the chronic form can last for several months. Infectious pharyngitis is transmitted through the air, especially by direct contact with an infected person.

The incubation period lasts for 24 hours after the start of treatment with antibiotics. But if untreated, the patient may be contagious for more than 21 days and it can even be transmitted as long as there are secretions in the airways.

Treatment: how to care for pharyngitis

Treatment of pharyngitis depends on the cause of the illness. Acute pharyngitis, or angina, in most cases heals on its own after a few days. In case of bacterial infection however, antibiotic treatment is necessary to reduce symptoms and limit complications.

The doctor can also prescribe painkillers for the fever.

Chronic pharyngitis requires treatment for the underlying causes of the illness, such as a lifestyle change (diet, stopping smoking) or using an inhaler.

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