About 7.5% of people have a sore throat in any three-month period. Two to three episodes in a year is not uncommon. This resulted in 15 million physician visits in the United States in 2007. Pharyngitis is the most common cause of a sore throat. The word comes from the Greek wordpharynx meaning "throat" and the suffix -itis meaning "inflammation".
Tonsillitis is a subtype of pharyngitis. If the inflammation includes both the tonsils and other parts of the throat, it may be called pharyngotonsillitis. Another subclassification is nasopharyngitis (the common cold).
The majority of cases are due to an infectious organism acquired from close contact with an infected individual.
These comprise about 40–80% of all infectious cases and can be a feature of many different types of viral infections.
Adenovirus – the most common of the viral causes. Typically the degree of neck lymph node enlargement is modest and the throat often does not appear red, although it is painful.
Orthomyxoviridae which cause influenza – present with rapid onset high temperature, headache and generalized ache. A sore throat may be associated.
Viscous lidocaine relieves pain by numbing the mucous membranes.
Antibiotics are useful if a bacterial infection is the cause of the sore throat. For viral infections, antibiotics have no effect. In the United States they are used in 25% of people before a bacterial infection has been detected.
Gargling salt water is often suggested but evidence looking at its usefulness is lacking.Alternative medicines are promoted and used for the treatment of sore throats. However, they are poorly supported by evidence.
Acute pharyngitis is the most common cause of a sore throat and, together with cough, it is diagnosed in more than 1.9 million people a year in the United States.
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