Pharyngitis occurs from a contagious bacterial infection that develops in the throat. It is estimated that around 30 million cases are diagnosed annually. Although children and individuals with weak immune systems are more susceptible to infection than adults, it can attack anyone. The only way to know for sure if you have pharyngitis is to see a doctor and take the appropriate clinical tests. However, there are certain symptoms that you can identify even before you make an appointment with your doctor that could indicate that your throat is infected.
Method 1 of 4: Assessing Throat and Mouth Symptoms
Step 1. Determine the severity of the pain
A severe sore throat is usually the first sign of an infection. There is still the possibility of getting pharyngitis even if the sore throat is only mild, but mild pain, which can be easily treated or remedied, is probably not caused by an infection.
- The pain shouldn't come from something like talking or swallowing.
- Pain that can be eased with painkillers or partially treated with a cold liquid or food can still be related to an infection. It is often difficult to completely get rid of pain without proper medication.
Step 2. Try to swallow
If it's only mild pain but becomes extremely severe when you swallow, you may have pharyngitis. Feeling pain during the swallowing movement, making this action quite difficult, is quite common in someone who is suffering from a throat infection.
Step 3. Feel your breath
While bad breath may not occur in all patients, infection caused by bacteria of the streptococcus genus leaves a person with notorious bad breath. This is due to the bacteria's reproduction.
- While potent, the breath's exact odor can be difficult to describe. Some say it smells like metal or a hospital, while others liken it to spoiled meat. Regardless of the exact odor, the “infected breath” will be stronger and worse than normal bad breath.
- Due to the subjective nature of “bad breath”, this is not a way to diagnose a throat infection, but rather a common association.
Step 4. Feel the glands in your neck
Lymph nodes trap and destroy germs. The nodes in the neck are often swollen and tender when you have a throat infection.
- Although lymph nodes are located throughout the body, the first to swell will be those closest to the source of infection. In the case of a throat infection, it will be the ones in your neck.
- Use your fingertips to feel the area directly in front of your ears. Move your fingertips in a circular motion behind the ears.
- Also check the throat area, just below the chin. The most common place to find a swollen lymph node in an infected throat is just below the jaw, between the chin and the ear. Move your fingertips back and up toward the ear, then down and down the side of the neck at the bottom of the ear.
- Finish by checking the collarbone and repeating on both sides.
- If you can feel a swelling or a bulge in any of these areas, your lymph nodes may be swollen due to inflammation.
Step 5. Take a look at your language
People with a throat infection usually have a prickly layer of small red dots across the tongue, especially at the bottom. Many compare this coating on the tongue to the outside of a strawberry.
These dots can be either light red or dark red. They usually look inflamed
Step 6. Look at the back of the throat
Many who suffer from a throat infection develop petechiae, red patches on the roof of the mouth (in the background).
Step 7. Check tonsils, if you still have them
Typically, tonsils become inflamed when we have a throat infection. They will be a brighter red than normal, as well as clearly bigger. You may also notice white spots on them. These spots may be directly on your tonsils or at the back of your throat. Sometimes they may not be white, but yellow.
Instead of white patches, you can see long bands of pus covering the tonsils. This is also a symptom of a throat infection
Method 2 of 4: Assessing Other Common Symptoms
Step 1. Remember if you were with someone who had a sore throat
Infection is contagious and transmitted through direct contact with the bacteria that causes it. It is unlikely that you will develop an infection without having had direct contact with someone who was infected.
- It can be difficult to know if someone else has had the disease. Unless you've been completely isolated lately, chances are you've been in contact with someone who has the infection.
- It is possible for someone to carry and pass the infection without showing symptoms.
Step 2. Consider the speed of disease development
A sore throat associated with strep usually develops without warning and very quickly. If your throat starts to hurt more and more after several days, it is likely that the cause of the pain is something else.
However, this fact alone is not enough to rule out an infection
Step 3. Measure your temperature
Pharyngitis is usually accompanied by a fever of 38, 3 degrees Celsius or higher. A milder fever could still be caused by the infection, but it is more likely to be a symptom of a virus.
Step 4. Watch out for headaches
It is another common symptom of someone who has a throat infection. The pain can range from mild to excruciating.
Step 5. Monitor for digestive problems
Losing your appetite or feeling nauseous may be other symptoms of a possible throat infection. In more extreme cases, the infection can lead to vomiting and stomach pain.
Step 6. Consider fatigue as a possible symptom
As with any infection, a throat infection can lead to increased fatigue. Waking up in the morning or going through daily activities can be more difficult than usual.
Step 7. Look for rashes
Severe throat infections can cause a condition known as scarlet fever, also called scarlet fever. This red rash will be very similar to sandpaper, both in appearance and texture.
- Scarlet fever will usually show up 12 to 48 hours after the first symptoms of the infection appear.
- The rash will usually start around the neck before spreading to the chest, and can also affect the abdomen and groin. In rare cases they can appear on the back, arms, feathers or face.
- When treated with antibiotics, scarlet fever quickly heals. If you notice such a rash you should see a doctor as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not you have other symptoms of pharyngitis.
Step 8. Keep an eye out for the absence of any symptoms
While a cold and a sore throat have many symptoms in common, there are several unique cold symptoms that people with a sore throat will not have. The absence of such symptoms may be another indication that you have pharyngitis rather than a simple cold.
- Pharyngitis usually does not cause nasal symptoms. That is, you will not have a cough, runny nose, stuffy nose or red or itchy eyes.
- Although it causes stomach pain, a throat infection does not cause diarrhea.
Method 3 of 4: Assessing Your Recent History and Risk Factors
Step 1. Take a look at your medical history
Some people seem to be more likely to develop infections than others. If you have a history of strep throat, then it's likely that a new infection could be that too.
Step 2. Consider your age when assessing whether you have pharyngitis
While 20 to 30% of sore throats in children are caused by pharyngitis, only 5 to 15% of adults who go to the doctor with such symptoms have the disease.
Elderly patients, as well as those who are ill for other reasons (such as the flu), are more susceptible to opportunistic infections
Step 3. See if the environment you live in can increase your risk of getting pharyngitis
There is a greater chance of having the disease if another family member has had it in the last two weeks. The shared experience between walls or recreational spaces such as schools, dormitories, day care centers or military accommodation promotes a greater propensity for the development of the bacteria.
Although children are at greater risk of developing pharyngitis, babies up to two years old are less susceptible to infection. However, they may not show the same symptoms as older children or adults, and may experience fever, stuffy nose, and loss of appetite. Check with a doctor the risk of your baby having the disease if you or someone close to you has pharyngitis and your baby has a fever or other symptoms
Step 4. Assess if your health has any risk factors that could make you more susceptible to developing pharyngitis
Individuals with compromised immunity, who have a lower ability to fight infection, have a greater chance of getting pharyngitis. Other illnesses or infections can also increase this risk.
- Simple fatigue can weaken your immune system. Exerting effort or extreme exercise (such as running a marathon) can also compromise your body. As he is working on his recovery, his ability to fight an infection may be impaired. In other words, while exhausted, your body will be focused on recovering and may not be able to effectively defend itself.
- Smoking can damage the lining of your mouth, making it easier for the bacteria to colonize.
- Oral sex can expose the oral cavity directly to streptococcus.
- Diabetes decreases your body's ability to fight infections.
Method 4 of 4: Going to the Doctor
Step 1. Know when to see a doctor
While common sore throats do not necessarily require medical attention, you should see your doctor right away if you experience symptoms of potential pharyngitis. If your sore throat is accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, a rash, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or a high fever or lasting longer than 48 hours, make an appointment with your doctor.
Medical follow-up is also advisable if the sore throat lasts longer than two days
Step 2. Talk to the doctor about your suspicions
Bring a list of all your symptoms and mention the possibility of pharyngitis. Your doctor will usually check for the most striking signs of the disease.
- Your doctor should take your temperature.
- Also wait for the clinician to look down your throat with a flashlight. He will most likely check for swollen tonsils, for a red, irregular rash on his tongue, or for yellow or white patches at the back of his throat.
Step 3. Wait for your doctor to complete a clinical diagnostic protocol
This protocol is basically an organized way to assess your symptoms. It will test to empirically indicate the likelihood that you have a "group A" streptococcal infection. It is simply a list of criteria he follows in order to know if and how he should apply treatment for pharyngitis.
- The doctor will take into account the negative and positive points for the presented signs and symptoms: +1 point for white spots on the tonsils (tonsillar exudate), +1 point for sensitive lymph nodes (cervical adenopathy in the anterior triangle), +1 point for a history of recent fever, +1 point if you are under 15 years old, +0 points for an age between 15 and 45 years old, -1 point if you are over 45 years old, and -1 point for cough.
- There is about an 80% chance that you will have a "group A" strep infection if you score 3-4 points. Basically, you are considered positive for laryngitis. The infection must then be treated with antibiotics and your doctor will give you a proper diet.
Step 4. Ask the doctor to do a quick test for pharyngitis
The above method is not effective in predicting the correct antibiotic treatment for children. A quick test for streptococcus antigen should be done in the office, and it only takes a few minutes.
The doctor will use a flexible cotton-tipped swab (similar to a cotton swab) to take samples of the contents of the back of your throat for testing. The test will then be done and within 5 to 10 minutes you will have the result
Step 5. Ask your doctor for a throat culture
If the rapid test results do not show the disease, but you still experience other symptoms of pharyngitis, a more accurate test called a throat culture may be necessary. This test aims to create a colony of the bacteria that is in your throat in vitro. As the colony collected from your mouth grows, it will be easier to detect if there is a large amount of "group A" streptococci. Your clinician may use any combination of the above methods at their discretion.
- Although the quick test is usually sufficient to detect pharyngitis, false negatives can occur. Throat culture, in comparison, is more accurate.
- A throat culture is not necessary if the rapid test is positive, as the rapid test tests for bacterial antigen levels and will only be positive if there is a high concentration of streptococci. This indicates prompt antibiotic treatment.
- The doctor will use a cotton swab to collect fluid samples from your throat. The swab will then be sent to the laboratory and the sample transferred to a Petri dish. The plate will be incubated for a period of 18 to 48 hours, depending on the methodology used by the laboratory. If you have pharyngitis, "group A" Beta Streptococcus bacteria will grow on the plaque.
Step 6. Research other testing options
Some physicians may prefer nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT) over throat culture in cases where the rapid test is negative. This test is accurate and the result comes out in hours instead of days as in the culture test.
Step 7. Take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them
Pharyngitis is a bacterial infection and is therefore effectively treated with antibiotics. If you have any known allergies to antibiotics (such as penicillin), it is important to tell your doctor to provide you with suitable alternatives.
- Typically, the length of time you should be on antibiotics is 10 days (this may vary depending on which one was prescribed). Always take the medicine until the indicated date, not stopping sooner even if you are already feeling better.
- Penicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins and azithromycin are common antibiotics to treat infection. Penicillin is used regularly and is effective in treating pharyngitis. However, some individuals may be allergic to this medication. You should tell your doctor that you are aware of this possible side effect. Amoxicillin is another drug with good results in the treatment of pharyngitis. It is very similar to penicillin and may better resist gastric acids in your stomach before it is absorbed into your body. Furthermore, it has a broader spectrum of activity than penicillin.
- Azithromycin, erythromycin or cephalosporins are alternatives to penicillin when the person is allergic. Erythrominin has higher rates of gastrointestinal side effects in patients.
Step 8. Rest and get comfortable while the antibiotics take effect
Recovery will usually take as long as you are on antibiotics (up to ten days). While you are healing, give your body the opportunity to recover.
- Extra sleep, herbal teas, and plenty of fluids can help ease the pain in your throat as you recover.
- Also, consuming cold drinks, ice cream and popsicles can help relieve pain in some cases.
Step 9. Follow up with your doctor if necessary
You should feel better within two or three days.If you do not improve, continue with a fever, or show any signs of an allergic reaction to antibiotics, make an appointment. Rashes, hives, or swelling after starting medication may be signs of a medication allergy.
- Stay home for at least 24 hours after starting treatment for pharyngitis.
- Do not share cups, utensils or bodily fluids with someone who has pharyngitis. If infected, keep your personal items to yourself.
- See a doctor immediately if you are unable to swallow fluids, show signs of dehydration, cannot swallow your own saliva, or have severe pain or stiffness in your neck.
- Mononucleosis can have the same signs or happen at the same time as pharyngitis. If the pharyngitis test is negative but symptoms persist and you show extreme fatigue, order a mononucleosis test.
- Pharyngitis should be treated with antibiotics. Otherwise, it can lead to a case of rheumatic fever, which is a very serious illness that affects the heart and joints. This can occur nine to ten days after the first symptoms of pharyngitis, so prompt treatment is advisable.
- If you are being treated for pharyngitis, see a doctor if you notice that your urine is dark, coca-colored, or you have a decrease in urine output. This could indicate inflammation of the kidneys, a possible complication of pharyngitis.