What is Pharyngitis?

Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx, or throat, resulting in redness, swelling, and pain. It’s caused by a virus or bacteria, and it’s often accompanied by cold-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, sneezing, and congestion. Pharyngitis is usually mild and self-limited, but it can cause serious complications, so it should be treated promptly.

Common Causes

Pharyngitis is most commonly caused by a virus. The most common viral organisms include: rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, Influenza A and B, parainfluenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Bacterial causes of pharyngitis include strep throat (Streptococcal pyogenes), gonorrhea, and chlamydia.


The most common symptom of pharyngitis is sore throat. Other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Tenderness in the neck
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headache


Your doctor will begin by performing a physical examination, and he or she may take a throat swab to determine the cause of pharyngitis. The throat swab will be analyzed with a culture to identify the bacteria or virus that is causing the infection.


Treatment for pharyngitis depends on the cause of the infection. Viral infections usually resolve without treatment, but your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications for severe cases. Bacterial infections, such as strep throat, can be treated with antibiotics.

Your doctor may also recommend other treatments for symptom relief, such as pain relievers, throat lozenges, and gargling with saltwater.