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Pharyngitis

Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the throat and the surrounding lymph nodes. Acute pharyngitis is a short-lived infection, caused by a virus or bacteria. Most people have at least one attack of pharyngitis a year. The symptoms are a dry, tickling throat, smarting and pain when swallowing, and generally also fever and nausea. The throat is red and swollen, with a coating. Recovery occurs within a few days. A complication of bacterial pharyngitis can be the formation of throat abscesses. With viral infection complications rarely occur, meningitis being a rare exception. Acute pharyngitis can also accompany another illness, such as measles, German measles or glandular fever, and the doctor should always be aware of this. If the patient is very ill, the disorder is probably acute tonsillitis, or it could be a streptococcal infection. This is a serious condition, with possible, though rare, complications such as scarlet fever, glomerulonephritis or rheumatic fever. In cases of acute pharyngitis it is not usually necessary to call a doctor, unless children are affected. The symptoms can be relieved by throat pastilles, gargling and pain killers; bed rest and a light diet are also recommended. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to treat bacterial infection. Chronic (long-term) pharyngitis is usually associated with general inflammation of the mucous membrane of the upper air passages, for example sinusitis with a blocked nose. It is also a frequent complaint of smokers and alcoholics. It is often an occupational disorder, caused by inhaling irritating dust or vapours. Symptoms are a tickle in the throat with persistent coughing and clearing of the throat. This can become habitual. There are no particular complications. When the cause is unclear, it may be wise to consult a doctor. Possible irritating agents and their avoidance should be investigated. Gargling can be soothing.

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