About Pharyngitis: Treatment and Prevention

The best way to prevent infection with viruses or bacteria that cause the symptoms of pharyngitis is to stay rested, eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids. When living in the same residence as someone suffering with pharyngitis, it is wise to wash the hands on a regular basis to reduce transmission of germs.

Antibiotics are effective against bacteria but not viruses. Therefore, if the doctor determines that the pharyngitis is viral in nature, antibiotics are not needed. Recall that 95% of the time an acute pharyngitis is caused by a virus. If the doctor is suspicious that the pharyngitis is being caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria (Strep throat), then a throat swab will be performed, and often an antibiotic will be given until the results are known. The full course of antibiotics should be taken if the test comes back positive, even if the symptoms have gone away. This will ensure that all of the bacteria have been killed, preventing a reoccurrence of the same infection. Bacteria can become resistant to the effects of the antibiotic if the infection is not completely cured before stopping the medicine.

A warm salt-water gargle (one-half teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water) helps to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with pharyngitis. The gargles should be repeated several times a day. Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen taken by mouth may also be helpful. One should ask the pharmacist to recommend the most appropriate pain medicine and dose for their particular circumstances. Aspirin should not be taken by anyone 19 years of age or younger without the advice of a doctor due to increased risk of a rare but deadly disease known as Reye's Syndrome.

Antiseptic throat lozenges and sprays can further irritate the throat. Others have a "numbing" action on the throat. Advice from a pharmacist is once again in order.

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