We have all had a sore throat at one time or another. Maybe you were singing too loudly at a concert, or perhaps you had a cold and the sore throat came along for the ride. What we often refer to as a sore throat is medically known as pharyngitis. But have you ever wondered, is pharyngitis contagious?
We are going to take a look at a sore throat and what it means for your health, from pharyngitis causes and pharyngitis symptoms, to pharyngitis diagnosis and pharyngitis prevention. By the time you complete this article, you should have a basic understanding of pharyngitis and everything that comes with it. Is a sore throat contagious? You are about to find out.
The Causes and Risk Factors of Pharyngitis
So, what causes pharyngitis? Are there any risk factors that could increase your chance of getting a sore throat? As for causes, there are a number of them. Pharyngitis can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections, but for the majority of sufferers, a virus is to blame. Sore throats can be caused by the same viruses that cause the flu, colds, and mononucleosis.
The bacterial infections that trigger sore throats are much less common than those caused by viruses. The most frequent bacterial infection cause leads to strep throat. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and Corynebacterium can also cause pharyngitis, but these forms are rather rare. The risk factors involved in acquiring a sore throat are fairly common and what you would expect.
- Flu and cold seasons
- Close contact with someone who has a sore throat or cold
- Frequent sinus infections
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Attending daycare or having a child that attends daycare
Given what can cause a sore throat, the question remains: Is it contagious?
Is Pharyngitis (Sore Throat) Contagious?
For how long is pharyngitis contagious? Is sore throat contagious at all? In a word, no. A sore throat itself is not contagious. You cannot spread your sore throat among people or give someone your sore throat by sharing a drink. However, the infection that is causing your sore throat may be contagious.
Therefore, you can spread the virus or bacteria behind your sore throat to other people during the period in which it is contagious, but a sore throat is not contagious. For example, you may end up giving someone your cold, but they might not contract the equivalent sore throat that you experienced.
You can spread the bacteria and viruses through contact with your saliva, mucus, or contact with things that often common in contact with those substances like handkerchiefs, towels, utensils, etc.
Sore throats produced by smoking, allergies, or injuries are not contagious.
Pharyngitis (Sore Throat) Symptoms
Are there symptoms of a sore throat beyond the obvious, which is having a sore throat? There are a few ailments that typically appear alongside a sore throat. If you have a sore throat, it’s not unheard of to also have things like an earache or ear infection. Sinus infections are also not uncommon.
This is due to the ears, nose, and throat being interconnected, which makes passing bacteria and infected material from one of these three parts to another a fairly easy task. Beyond that, common symptoms may also include the throat appearing sore and red upon closer examination.
You may also find swelling in the lymph nodes, as well as symptoms related to the particular cause of your sore throat, like cold and flu symptoms or whatever effects the strep bacteria may bring with it.
Pharyngitis (Sore Throat) Diagnosis
How is pharyngitis or a sore throat diagnosed? Unfortunately, trying to diagnose pharyngitis due can be a longer process due to its numerous causes. Bacterial and viral infections of this nature tend to mimic each other in terms of symptoms.
A cold and a sinus infection, for instance, can produce a great amount of mucus and lead to stuffed nasal areas in addition to your sore throat. That being said, there are a few tests that can help properly diagnose the pharyngitis and its cause.
1. Throat Culture
A throat culture or sample can be taken gently and easily by a doctor and sent off for testing. The culture is usually done with a throat swab (multiple swabs may be used to gain a few different samples).
The swab results should be able to point doctors in the direction of what type of virus or bacteria is causing your pharyngitis. At the very least, the cultures may be able to rule out what is not causing your throat issue.
2. Blood Test
A simple blood test should be able to tell the doctor whether it is a viral infection or something else is causing your sore throat. The blood sample will likely be taken from a vein in your arm or through a prick to your finger.
Pharyngitis (Sore Throat) Prevention
How can you prevent a sore throat from happening? No one wants the associated discomfort, but unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent conditions like this. It’s akin to trying to prevent a cold: There are things you can do to limit your exposure, but sometimes, you will get one no matter what you do. Here are a few tips to try and help prevent it as much as possible.
1. Practice Proper Hygiene
Keep your hands clean by washing them on a regular basis and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers when possible. This may help keep the number of germs circulating your hands a little bit lower.
2. Don’t Smoke
Smoking can help inflame your throat and make a sore throat easier to get when the right virus or bacteria comes along. Not smoking can help reduce the chance of the bacteria or virus causing a sore throat.
3. Don’t Share Personal Items
Avoid sharing items that could potentially pass viral and bacterial infections to others. Do not share scarves, makeup and makeup applicators, toothbrushes, utensils, etc.
How Long Does Pharyngitis Last?
Generally, pharyngitis should not last too long. Approximately 48 to 72 hours is the amount of time you should suffer through pharyngitis before it starts to get better. If it goes on for longer than that period, it is best to head to a doctor for more analysis. This will confirm that a virus or bacteria is causing it and not something a more sinister that needs different treatment.
Give Pharyngitis Time
We all live busy lives, and the last thing we need is a sore throat to bring our lives to a crawl. It would be great if there were a magic pill that could make it go away instantly. Regrettably, there isn’t, but if you take care of yourself and reduce the risk factors that can create pharyngitis, it can be less of a problem. And if you do get a sore throat, just focus on treating it and allowing the infection to run its course. Eventually, you will be back to normal.
Kerkar, P., “Is Pharyngitis Contagious & How Long Does it Last?” ePain Assist, May 19, 2017; https://www.epainassist.com/face-mouth-throat/is-pharyngitis-contagious, last accessed July 10, 2017.
“Pharyngitis,” MDDK Online Medical Doctor; http://mddk.com/pharyngitis.html, last accessed July 10, 2017.