Acute Pharyngitis

What is acute pharyngitis?

Acute pharyngitis is more commonly known as a 'sore throat'. It is a short-term infection of the pharynx (throat) caused by different viruses or bacteria. It is contagious via droplets that are released via sneezing or coughing. The main symptoms are sore throat, headache and fever. The condition usually resolves within 7 to 10 days without any medication.


Acute pharyngitis is caused by pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, which infect the mucous membrane (lining) of the throat. However, there are certain pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) which can cause more serious conditions such as mononucleosis, measles, or scarlet fever. It is contagious via droplets that are released via sneezing or coughing. Contact with an affected person increases the risk for acute pharyngitis. Viral infections are most common in summer and autumn and often lead to a blocked nose. Bacterial infections are more common during winter and spring.


Acute pharyngitis may appear as a sore throat, headache and fever. The lymph nodes in the neck might feel swollen and painful.


A diagnosis of the condition is usually made through assessing symptoms and having a physical examination.


Most cases of viral acute pharyngitis are self-limited, meaning they will resolve independently. In those cases, medical care is primarily supportive and includes pain relievers. If there is evidence of a bacterial infection, treatment may include antibiotics.


Taking care to prevent the spread of infections (such as colds or the flu) in the home and community can help prevent some cases of acute pharyngitis. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can cause acute pharyngitis, so keeping to recommended vaccination schedules also helps to prevent this condition.

Other names for acute pharyngitis

  • acute throat infection