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Pharyngitis


Pharyngitis is commonly referred to as a sore throat. It is a very common ailment that may signal a multitude of other possible illnesses. Strep throat, the common cold, ear infections, and many respiratory illnesses all tend to begin with discomfort in the throat, which we call a sore throat.

PHARYNGITIS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Pharyngitis is not a disease, but a symptom of another problem within the body. It can be tremendously uncomfortable, and can be difficult to deal with during an average day. Many over the counter treatments may help to alleviate the symptom, but ultimately the patient should seek to find the cause of the symptom and then proceed from there.

If the cause is a bacterial infection, which happens only a small percent, then an antibiotic will help alleviate the discomfort and the cause. However, in most cases, a virus is to blame which renders the antibiotic useless.

Rarely does pharyngitis occur as the only symptom. Other symptoms either accompany a sore throat or are soon to follow. Symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue often indicate the common cold or the flu. Additional symptoms including body aches, skin rash, loss of appetite, liver inflammation, swollen spleen, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, and exhaustion often indicate mononucleosis.

PHARYNGITIS CAUSES

There are just about as many causes for a sore throat as there are sore throats. Viral causes may include chicken pox, the flu, mononucleosis, croup, measles, and the common cold. Bacterial causes may include tonsillitis, strep throat, gonorrhea, mycoplasma, diphtheria, or Chlamydia. Simple causes may be dry air, allergies, muscle strain, pollution, cigarette smoke, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, and in rare cases, tumors and HIV infection.
pharyngitis
Image: Pharyngitis

PHARYNGITIS RISK FACTOR

While there are some risk factors associated with a sore throat, anyone can get one and anyone can get them often. Children seem more susceptible and it is not uncommon for children to experience about 5 sore throats per year, although it usually isn’t anything serious. Exposure to second hand or first hand smoke can add to the throat’s sensitivity and increase the likelihood for a sore throat. Poor hygiene, a compromised immune system, chemical irritants, allergies, frequent sinus infections, the chronic close quarters of either large groups of people (especially children or hospital settings) or even large families can increase the risk of spreading the illnesses that cause pharyngitis.

Throat cultures and rapid strep tests are common in a physician’s office when the chief complaint is a sore throat. Often, the accompanying symptoms and a thorough physical examination can determine the cause of the sore throat. However, even when the irritation is obvious, there is usually no way to determine whether the throat is being attack by bacteria or a virus without a culture.

Some illnesses left untreated can lead to more serious illnesses. Strep throat, for instance can gradually increase to ear infections, sinus infections, and eventually, scarlet fever, if left to its own devices. Bacterial infections run the risk of developing into more serious diseases while viral infections are forced to run their course while the patient is treated for the symptoms.

Bacterial infections can cause nerve damage, swollen tonsils which can obstruct the airway, anemia, heart inflammation, liver inflammation, ruptured spleen in the event of mild trauma, and a low platelet count among other things.

PHARYNGITIS TREATMENT

There is no medical treatment for sore throats that are caused by anything other than a bacterial infection. Pharyngitis is not treated beyond the symptoms which can make the patient feel more comfortable. Bacterial infections related to pharyngitis are treated with antibiotics.

Jell-o, water, apple juice, and drinks that are non-carbonated and contain no caffeine are best for treating a sore throat. Soups and even puddings can help alleviate the discomfort, as can sucking on ice chips. Most physicians recommend that a patient with a sore throat literally doubles their usual fluid intake. Gargling with salt water can help keep the area cleaner while alleviating the foul taste that can occur with a sore throat. The voice should be permitted rest while irritants like cigarette smoke should be avoided. Managing symptoms is about doing the things that make the throat feel good while avoiding those things that make the throat feel worse.

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