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What is a Viral Throat Infection?

A viral throat infection, often marked by soreness, swelling, and difficulty swallowing, is caused by viruses like the common cold or flu. Accompanied by vivid images, our article breaks down symptoms, treatments, and prevention strategies. Ready to learn how to protect yourself and soothe symptoms? Discover the essentials of viral throat health in our comprehensive guide. What will you implement first?
Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

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.

A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.

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.

A sore throat is a sympton of a viral throat infection.
A sore throat is a sympton of a viral throat infection.

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.

Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.

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.

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Discussion Comments

Raynbow

@heavanet- I think that orange juice and mild over-the-counter pain relievers work best for curing viral throat infections. Though it takes time, these remedies do help until your immune system kicks in.

Rundocuri

@heavanet- Warm tea with lemon, chicken noodle soup, and plenty of rest are the best treatments for a viral throat infection. If after a few days you either don't have improvements in your symptoms or you start to feel worse, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Heavanet

When I get a viral throat infection, it doesn't seem like any type of treatment helps very much. Is there any treatment that works better than others, or does the illness just have to run its course?

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    • A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
      By: pixelcaos
      A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
    • A sore throat is a sympton of a viral throat infection.
      By: Ilike
      A sore throat is a sympton of a viral throat infection.
    • Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
      By: Alexander Raths
      Getting antibiotics from a doctor may be necessary.
    • Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx.
      By: Alila Medical Media
      Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx.
    • Mononucleosis is a viral infection that can be passed through kissing.
      By: Antonioguillem
      Mononucleosis is a viral infection that can be passed through kissing.
    • Most viral throat infections subside within a few days.
      By: emde71
      Most viral throat infections subside within a few days.