Tonsillitis and Pharyngitis

by Sharon Hopkins


Pharyngitis, in layman terms, is a sore throat or a throat infection. When the throat or the pharynx is infected, the condition is called pharyngitis, but if only the tonsils are swollen or inflamed, the condition is known as tonsillitis. Tonsillitis or inflamed tonsils can eventually lead to pharyngitis.

The pharynx is the back of the throat, the area between the voice box and the tonsils. The pharynx can get inflamed by viruses that cause colds, flu or even specific infections like mononucleosis. Sometimes bacteria also cause sore throats, which can lead to strep throat along with pharyngitis.

The main symptoms of pharyngitis include:

  • Sore throats
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain and muscle aches

The symptoms of pharyngitis are similar to those of tonsillitis, and one can often be mistaken for the other. The main difference between tonsillitis and pharyngitis is that in case of the former, only the tonsils are affected, while in the case of the latter the throat is visibly affected. Tonsillitis and pharyngitis in children quite commonly occur together, and are even known as pharyngotonsillitis. There is also another type of pharyngitis called nasopharyngitis. This is a type of common cold in which the infection is passed from the throat or the pharynx to the nose.

These infections are particularly contagious and can spread rapidly during the colder months. Acute pharyngitis can come on quite suddenly and can be accompanied by a fever and a cough. The fever and cough are often the result of chronic or systemic infections that have not quite healed. Most cases of acute pharyngitis are caused by viruses, but others can be caused by irritants or pollutants too. There are cases where some other rarely occurring infections, are also caused by bacteria.

Children can often get one or both infections from other children in school or on the playground. Some of the common viruses that cause both tonsillitis and pharyngitis are Adenovirus, influenza, Epstein Barr virus, Herpes simplex virus and HIV. Other than fungal and parasitic infections can also cause these infections, including mycoplasma, Chlamydia pnumoniae, and Haemophillus influenza type B

A quick test is the best way to diagnose your child. The treatment your child will be given will depend on how badly affected your child is, the cause, the tolerance history of your child, and your child's age and overall medical history. Antibiotics might be used, but along with this, proper care is necessary, such as ensuring proper hydration, adequate rest, and also frequently sucking on lozenges meant specifically for the throat.

Reference:

  1. http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02069

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