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Sore throat - Pharyngitis
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Sore throat - Pharyngitis

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Sore throat, also called pharyngitis, is a painful inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the pharynx. Most often, it's a symptom of another illness - usually a viral infection such as a cold or the flu (influenza). In many cases, it's the first indication that you're getting sick.

Treatment

Most sore throats go away without treatment, often within a week or so. That's a good thing, because no medical therapy exists for sore throats caused by viral infections. But increasing your fluid intake and getting extra sleep can help speed your recovery.

When you're sick, choose fluids such as water, soups and broths — not sodas or drinks that contain caffeine, which can dehydrate you further. If you find it extremely painful to swallow, try sipping warm broth through a straw or sucking on ice chips.

Treating bacterial infections
At one time, doctors automatically treated all sore throats with antibiotics, both to heal the infection and to prevent dangerous complications such as rheumatic fever. Now, though, doctors are less likely to prescribe medication in every case. The reasons are twofold.

First, the alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria has led many doctors to curtail the use of antibiotics. In addition, antibiotics such as penicillin do little to hasten recovery from strep throat or to reduce signs and symptoms, and they don't prevent infections from recurring. They do, however, help prevent complications such as rheumatic fever and glomerulonephritis.

If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics for you or your child, be sure to take the entire course of medication, even if you feel better. This helps prevent the infection from coming back. It also prevents bacteria from becoming resistant to the medication. If children on antibiotic therapy feel well and don't have a fever, they often can return to school or child care when they're no longer contagious — usually 24 hours after beginning treatment.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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