In this time of COVID-19, having a simple sore throat is alarming. A little itch or pain in the throat may be thought of as an indication of the virus when all it means is an allergy or a different diagnosis.
Pharyngitis is a common yet complex inflammation of an organ in the throat called the pharynx. Having a sore throat is like getting a fever; I’m sure everyone had one before. However, you cannot simply identify one as pharyngitis because a lot of diseases can have it as a common cause and symptom too. Although you can be catching pharyngitis easily, the cause of your sore throat can still be confusing.
How do you get pharyngitis? What can cause inflammation and pain to your throat? Let’s find out more about this complaint, its common cause, and how we can address it.
Pharyngitis: At a Glance
Pharyngitis, or the inflammation of the pharynx, is the medical term for sore throat. Located at the back of the throat, the pharynx, connected to the nasal regions, mouth, and esophagus, makes it a passageway of both air and food. Because this organ is attached to the openings on the face, there is a high chance of exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
There are two categories of pharyngitis, one based on the frequency and the other based on the cause.
- Acute pharyngitis happens abruptly, and it may last for a few days.
- Chronic pharyngitis can recur within a short period, with symptoms persisting for more than a week.
- Viral pharyngitis is the more common sore throat, typically spread by nasal discharge or saliva.
- Bacterial pharyngitis, a less common type, caused sore throat from streptococcus bacteria. Thus, it earned the name strep throat.
Other causes include fungal infection, smoking or vaping, parasites, or weakened immune system.
How Do You Get Pharyngitis?
Viral infection can come from several different pathogens, like
- Influenza (flu)
- Parainfluenza (croup)
- Adenovirus (a common cause of colds)
- Varicella-zoster (chickenpox)
- Paramyxovirus (measles)
- Epstein-Barr (mononucleosis or kissing disease)
Bacterial infection, on the other hand, can come from
- Streptococci (strep throat, the most common cause)
- Mycoplasma pneumonia (pneumonia)
- Chlamydia trachomatis (STD called chlamydia)
- Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough)
Once you are exposed to these microorganisms, they attack and attach to the pharynx, while causing havoc elsewhere in the body. So, if you are diagnosed with any of the diseases listed, sore throat is one of the typical symptoms.
Now that we know what may cause a sore throat, how do you get pharyngitis, exactly? Well, the answer to that is not as simple. Typically, you can get bacterial or viral infections via exposure to nasal discharge and the saliva of an infected person. Some also get exposed to the virus upon holding a material exposed to the pathogen, like a shirt or a spoon, then touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth). This is how the coronavirus pandemic, that is COVID-19, spread all over the world.
How are Tonsillitis and Pharyngitis Different?
Your doctor may inform you that a similar virus or bacteria caused you to have tonsillitis or pharyngitis, or sometimes both. But between the two, the difference is the organ that the microorganism infected. As we all know by now, the pharynx is the one infected when diagnosed with pharyngitis. For tonsillitis, the tonsils, or the soft tissue lymph nodes on the rear sides of the throat, are infected. It can make your throat look inflamed, with red and white spots. If both organs are infected, the doctor may diagnose you with tonsillopharyngitis or pharyngotonsillitis.
Doctors may require tonsillectomy, or surgical removal of the tonsils, for most kids who experience frequent tonsil infections yearly. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if this recurring disease causes difficulty in breathing or swallowing.
Symptoms of Pharyngitis
Aside from the sore, scratchy throat, you can also feel the common complaints like
- Poor appetite due to difficulty in swallowing
- Colds (sneezing, runny nose, or nasal congestion)
- Body weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rashes (kissing disease)
- White spots on red and inflamed throat
You can manifest two or more of these symptoms. You just have to make sure that you know if your sore throat is just pharyngitis or a symptom of a more serious disease. Knowing your true diagnosis makes it easier to treat and address.
How Do You Get Pharyngitis: Diagnosis And Treatment
Because having a sore throat is a common complaint many of us, if not all, have experienced once in a while, many would just leave it like that without consulting a doctor. The truth is, your doctor’s examination is critical to identify what microorganism caused it, what medication to take, and how long your symptoms will last.
Consultation. Once you seek the attention of your doctor, he can do a comprehensive physical exam, then run tests to make sure if you need antibiotics or not. He may request a throat culture, sputum test, and blood work to specifically diagnose and pinpoint which medication will work best for your condition.
Intervention. You may opt to have home remedies instead of antibiotics for your pharyngitis. Your doctor may agree, especially if a virus causes your sore throat. If your throat culture o strep test comes out negative, a viral infection is a cause, and no antibiotics would be necessary. Why? Because viral infections do not react to antibiotics, and they subside on their own. Here are some things you can do at home to feel better while enduring your sore throat.
- Water therapy
- Consuming soups and soft foods for easy swallowing
- Saltwater rinse
- Using a humidifier to add moisture to the air
- Drinking tea with ginger, honeysuckle, or licorice
- For pain, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen
For bacterial infection, your doctor may recommend taking antibiotics to relieve your symptoms and shorten your disease lifespan. Make sure that you take the entire course of the antibacterial medication to avoid acquired resistance to the drug and relapse of the infection.
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What is Pharyngitis?
Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis.
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