Viral Throat Infection

Help in Understanding a Viral Throat Infection

While a standard sore throat is not much to worry about, a viral throat infection is because in addition to pain, you would be dealing with a virus.  The virus that attacks the throat could be from several things to include the flu, coxsackievirus, the common cold, or mononucleosis.  Regardless of the cause, any throat infection needs to be diagnosed and treated.

The exact symptoms that go along with a viral throat infection would vary depending on the cause and the severity of the infection but the common symptoms when connected to the flue include soreness, a cough, muscle aches and pains, and low-grade fever.  If the infection were linked to the cold, the same symptoms would be likely but with the addition of a runny nose, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, or perhaps small white bumps on the tonsils, if applicable.

Then, if the viral throat infection were connected to coxsackievirus, you would still have soreness, and fever, but also a nagging headache, soreness of the tongue and roof of the mouth, neck, stomach, arm, and leg pain, and diminished appetite.  A viral throat infection and mononucleosis include intense fatigue lasting longer than one week, mid-grade fever, red spots on the roof of the mouth, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, light red rash on the chest, although it can affect the whole body, and if you still have your tonsils, a white coating or swelling.

Once at the doctor’s office, a viral throat infection would be diagnosed by looking at all symptoms and then taking a swab that would be examined under a microscope.  Usually, a sore throat is first thought to be associated with strep throat, which is a possibility but it could also be a viral infection.  Once the exact diagnosis is made, the doctor would be able to recommend the best form of treatment.

A misconception is that antibiotics will stop the viral throat infection but in truth, since no bacterium is involved this type of medication would make no difference.  Instead, you would likely be told to take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen and gargling with warm, salt water.  During the healing time, you would also need to avoid contact with other people so the infection is not spread.  Other than that, plenty of fluids and bed rest is the best treatment for a viral throat infection. 

Unfortunately, a viral throat infection commonly lasts one to two weeks so you can expect to feel bad for that period.  Now, if the diagnosis is mononucleosis, additional treatments might be suggested and to get back to your normal self could take several months.  No matter the cause, remember that one of the best methods for getting over a viral throat infection is by providing the body with lots of rest.  Other things you can do to speed up the recovery time include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat chicken soup or other hot, clear soups
  • When ready for solid foods, stick with rice, oatmeal, applesauce, and other softer type foods
  • Take a warm, relaxing bath
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Suck on throat lozenges
  • Reduce activity

As you can see, time is the best treatment for a viral throat infection.  However, if you should begin experiencing sweats, chills, or your fever goes up, if the lymph nodes become increasingly swollen, if you notice white spots or puss on the back of the throat or tonsils, or if you cannot swallow, you need to make a follow-up appointment with the doctor.