Viral Pharyngitis



Viral pharyngitis is caused by a viral infection such as a common cold or the flu.

Risk Factors

Viral pharyngitis is more common in children and adolescents. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Living or working in crowded places
  • Not handwashing enough
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • A lowered ability to fight infection due to:



Symptoms of viral pharyngitis may be:

  • A sore, red, swollen throat
  • Problems swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Lack of hunger
  • Tiredness
  • Rashes


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis may be based on the symptoms and a throat exam. The throat may be swabbed. This is to rule out other causes, such as strep throat.



There are no specific treatments to cure viral pharyngitis. Most of these infections go away on their own in about a week. Treatments may help ease symptoms. Options may be:

  • Over the counter pain medicine—to ease discomfort
  • Warm salt water gargles—to ease sore throat
  • Throat lozenges
  • Warm drinks, soups, or cold fluids
  • A cool mist humidifier—to soothe a dry or stuffy nose


The risk of viral pharyngitis may be lowered by:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Not sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses with someone who has a sore throat
  • Avoiding people who have a sore throat

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.