Flu Home > Viral Pharyngitis

There are several different types of infections that can cause a sore throat (medically known as pharyngitis). Viral infections are the most common cause of a sore throat. In some viral cases, a person's only symptom might be a sore throat (viral pharyngitis).
Other times, the infection might cause other symptoms. This is because the same viruses that cause viral pharyngitis also cause upper respiratory infections, like the common cold, flu, or sinus infections (sinusitis).
Some clues that a sore throat might be from a virus include:
  • A cough
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Irritation of the eyes (conjunctivitis or pink eye).
The most common cause of a viral sore throat is a rhinovirus, affecting up to 20 percent of people. Other viruses that can cause a sore throat include:
Specific symptoms can vary with each type of virus. Besides a sore throat, symptoms commonly seen with viral pharyngitis include fever, runny nose, nasal congestion, irritation or redness of the eyes (pink eye), cough, and/or hoarseness.
With time (about two to five days), viral throat infections improve on their own, without the need for antibiotics. While the body fights the infection, home treatments can be used to decrease symptoms.
Getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids are the first recommendations for treating a sore throat caused by a virus. Other options for decreasing symptoms include pain medicines, oral rinses, and throat lozenges.
(For more detail on viral pharyngitis, click Sore Throat Causes, Sore Throat Symptoms, and Sore Throat Remedies. These articles offer an in-depth look at what causes a sore throat, possible symptoms that may occur along with a sore throat, and possible treatment options you can try at home.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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