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A viral throat infection is an illness caused by a virus, a tiny disease-causing agent, that invades throat cells. Once the throat becomes infected by a virus, the tissue can become swollen and itchy, causing pain and other discomfort. Viral infections include pharyngitis, laryngitis and mononucleosis.
Pharyngitis is contracted by breathing in an airborne virus, such as the rhinovirus, which is also known as the common cold. Often, such infections spread by infected individuals coughing or sneezing into the air. Besides the common cold, influenza may also cause this particular type of infection. Symptoms of pharyngitis include a sore throat, pain when swallowing, an itchy throat, inflammation, and redness in the tissues.
Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, also known as the voice box. Although things like smoking or speaking too much can cause this illness, viruses including the influenza virus and the rhinovirus can also cause it. In most cases, people with laryngitis will have a temporarily distorted speaking voice. Some people find it difficult to do much more than whisper while the infection is present. While most throat infections are rather painful, laryngitis is not necessarily so and, in many instances, a tickle at the back of the throat is all that is felt before the voice is lost.
Most throat infections do not last long and disappear within a few days just by increasing rest and fluid consumption. Mononucleosis, however, can take up to several months to completely go away. Dubbed the kissing disease, the virus is often passed through kissing or eating or drinking from the same dishes as an infected person. Once the infection is passed to a new host, it lies dormant without any visible symptoms for several weeks. When symptoms such as sore throat, fever, weakness, headache and fatigue do set in, they may linger for a few days or a few months and are only treatable by rest and fluids.
Strep throat is another very painful throat infection. It is not, however, a viral throat infection, but is by bacteria instead. Caused by a strain of bacteria known as Streptococcus, the symptoms are similar to a virus and include a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, headache, nausea and loss of appetite. Some people also experience an unusual skin rash thought to be an allergic response to the bacteria.