There is no specific treatment for viral pharyngitis. You can relieve symptoms by gargling with warm salt water (one half-teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water) several times a day and taking anti-inflammatory drugs or medications, such as acetaminophen, to control fever. Excessive use of anti-inflammatory lozenges or sprays may make a sore throat worse.
It is important to avoid antibiotics when a sore throat is due to a viral infection. The antibiotics will not help. Using them to treat viral infections helps strengthen bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.
In some sore throats (such as infectious mononucleosis), the lymph nodes in the neck may become extremely swollen. They may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisone.
Symptoms usually go away within a week to 10 days.
Complications of viral pharyngitis are extremely uncommon.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms last longer than expected or do not improve with self-care. Always seek medical care if you have a sore throat and have extreme discomfort or difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Caserta MT, Flores AR. Pharyngitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 54.
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