Acute pharyngitis

"In the treatment of acute pharyngitis, indiscriminate self-medication and inadequate compliance with the prescription made by the doctor, leads to resistance to treatment and the appearance of complications".


Pharyngitis is a condition that causes irritation, inflammation or infection of the pharynx, and particularly its lymphoid tissue.

Acute pharyngitis is an infection caused by viruses or bacteria.

In many of these cases, there is a painful enlargement of the neck nodes (reactive lymphadenitis), since lymphoid tissue is also present.

What are the symptoms of acute pharyngitis?

Infants (3 months to 1 year) may be irritable, have sleep and feeding disorders, with irregular fever, clear or thick nasal mucus, nasal obstruction and snoring and nostril excoriations. 

Very frequently they appear enlarged the ganglions of the neck, that usually are painful; it is very common that simultaneously an inflammation of the average ear exists (acute otitis media). The children in school age usually present/display a picture of sudden presentation, characterized by high fever, general malaise, reddening of the pharynx and sometimes the palate and the language, pain when swallowing, presence of whitish or grayish exudate plates in the tonsils or pharynx and enlarged and painful cervical nodes. If the adenoids are enlarged, there will almost always be nasal obstruction, mouth breathing and nighttime snoring.

The most common symptoms are:

  • General discomfort.
  • Fever.
  • Sore throat when swallowing.
  • Redness of the pharynx.
  • Swollen cervical nodes.

In adults, the symptoms are similar to those of school-aged children, i.e., fever or febrile illness, general malaise, redness of the pharynx, presence of whitish or grayish exudate plaques on the tonsils or pharynx, acute sore throat when swallowing saliva and food, and enlarged and painful cervical nodes.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have acute pharyngo-tonsillitis

What are the causes of acute pharyngitis?

Most acute pharyngitis are infectious processes, due to viruses or bacteria; viruses cause 80 to 90% of pharyngitis in both children and adults.

Pharyngeal infections caused by viruses can also predispose to bacterial over-infection.

The viruses that most frequently produce these conditions are those that cause the common cold and flu (Rhinovirus, Coronavirus, Adenovirus, Influenzavirus); some viruses cause quite typical conditions such as infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus or cytomegalovirus) or herpangina and hand-foot-mouth disease (Coxsackie A virus), or herpes gingivostomatitis (herpes virus). Among the bacteria, those of the Streptococcus family are the most common.

Pharyngitis caused by fungi is rare, but can be seen especially in patients with immune deficiencies, such as patients being treated for cancer, transplants or AIDS. 

How is acute pharyngitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of acute pharyngitis is based on the patient's medical history and examination.

The more or less sudden presentation of the picture and its clinical characteristics (fever, general malaise, bad breath, cervical pain, etc.) make suspect a picture of acute pharyngo-tonsillitis.

On many occasions it is useful to perform some laboratory tests such as hemogram, globular sedimentation rate, or determination of the level of antistreptolysins (ASLO).

When certain infectious agents are suspected, a pharyngeal smear should be performed to culture the pharyngeal exudate. This test allows the determination of the germs that are causing the infection.

If an antibiogram is also performed, the sensitivity of these germs to antibiotic treatment can be known.

How is acute pharyngitis treated?

Regardless of the cause of acute pharyngitis, the patient will need to have adequate food and water support.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be used. In some very severe cases it may be advisable to use steroids, especially to treat pain.

As most acute pharyngitis are caused by viruses and are not cured by antibiotics, antibiotic treatment should only be used when the physician suspects the existence of a primary bacterial infection, a complicated viral infection, or a complication of a pharyngo-tonsillar condition. In cases requiring antibiotic treatment, the most effective antibiotics remain those in the penicillin family (penicillin G, benzathine penicillin, or amoxicillin).

Oral rinses with antiseptics may help decrease local symptoms.

Where do we treat it?


The Department of Otolaryngology
of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology of the University of Navarra Clinic is a national and world reference in numerous highly specialized surgical procedures.

We have the latest technology and we perform all diagnostic tests in less than 48 hours in order to offer our patients the best solution in the shortest time possible.

We were one of the first centers in Spain to use robotic surgery in the surgical treatment with the Da Vinci® System. 

Organized in specialized units:

  • Otology - Hearing.
  • Rhinology - Nose.
  • Pharyngology - Throat.
  • Laryngology - Voice.
  • Balance disorders.
  • Head and neck problems.
Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Experts in the treatment of hearing problems.
  • Pioneers in axillary surgery to avoid scarring.
  • National reference center in tissue sealing for tonsil removal.

Our team of professionals