The throat, in addition to the nasal cavity, mouth and part of the larynx, is one of the structures of the upper respiratory tract. It is protected against infection by a number of defense mechanisms, such as its anatomical structure, rich and diverse flora of the nasopharynx, non-specific mechanisms (e.g. activity of the ciliary epithelium, mucus, coughing, sneezing) and the immune system. In addition, the inhaled air passing through the upper respiratory tract is warmed, moisturized and cleansed.

What is pharyngitis?

Acute pharyngitis and tonsillitis is one of the most common reasons for visiting your GP. Most acute respiratory infections (around 80%) are viral infections caused most often by rhinoviruses. Only about 20% of them are bacterial infections, most often caused by Gram-positive group A streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes).

Pharyngitis occurs when the pathogen enters the respiratory system. Symptoms of nasopharyngeal infection appear first, then throat infection. This results in increased vascular permeability, swelling of the mucosa and an increase in serous-mucous secretion.

The infections of the upper respiratory tract include:

• Acute rhinitis (the so-called “cold”)

• Acute pharyngitis and / or tonsillitis

• Acute and chronic otitis media

• Acute epiglottitis

• Acute and chronic sinusitis

• Acute laryngitis

• Acute laryngitis, tracheitis and bronchitis (croup)

The diagnosis of pharyngitis is made on the basis of clinical symptoms, such as sore throat, dryness, burning, fever, difficulty swallowing, enlarged palatine tonsils and painful swelling of the submandibular lymph nodes, sometimes runny nose, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain. Differentiating whether pharyngitis is a viral or bacterial infection is difficult because inflammatory lesions on the pharyngeal mucosa occur equally frequently in both forms of infection. It is assumed that symptoms such as: cough, runny nose, temperature below 38 ° C indicate a viral basis of the disease.

How do we treat pharyngitis?

Symptoms of viral infection usually begin to disappear spontaneously after about 3-4 days. In the case of viral infections, symptomatic treatment with painkillers (paracetamol), anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen) and disinfectants is recommended. It is recommended to rinse the throat with salt water, inhalation with isotonic saline solution, take local anti-inflammatory lozenges such as lozenges or lollipops liked by children. It is also recommended to rest and drink plenty of fluids, especially in the case of high fever accompanying inflammation. Plant-based products such as marshmallow, thyme, sage, licorice, eucalyptus are helpful. Marshmallow and thyme bring relief from scratching in the throat and have a soothing effect on the throat, sage and eucalyptus have disinfecting properties, and marshmallow additionally stimulates the secretion of mucus. Extracts of these herbs can be found in the Witamuski throat lollipops available on the market, containing 3 lollipops in one package and recommended for children from 4 years of age. Antibiotic therapy should only be reserved for patients with a proven bacterial throat infection.


How to prevent pharyngitis?

There are no effective ways to prevent pharyngitis.

Since, as I have written above, the cause of pharyngitis is most often a viral or, less frequently, bacterial infection, large clusters of people, which are the main centers of microbial spread, should be avoided during the season of illness. It should also be remembered that the factors contributing to the occurrence of this ailment may include: dry air, smoke, chemicals and other factors, cigarette smoke, air pollution, cleaning agents and other chemicals. Therefore, limiting exposure to these factors, for example by frequent airing of the rooms in which we are staying, may have a beneficial effect on our health.

Of course, let’s not forget about outdoor physical activity adapted to age and health, which effectively strengthens our overall immunity.

AUTHOR: Dr n. farm. Andrzej Tarasiuk