Is Sore Throat (Pharyngitis) Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

20 Sore Throat Home Remedies

There are a variety of home remedies that can be used to help soothe a sore throat. Check out these 20 home remedies to sooth a sore throat.

  1. OTC pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin)
  2. Sage or Echinacea throat spray
  3. Apple cider vinegar
  4. Raw garlic

What is pharyngitis?

Pharngitis is medical term for a sore throat. Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx (throat) that results in throat discomfort, pain and/or throat scratchiness; in some individuals it may cause painful swallowing. Sore throat is usually caused by a viral infection and less commonly, a bacterial infection usually by group A streptococci (strep throat). Other causes of sore throat include inflammation due to allergy, toxins, or cancer. Some doctors distinguish pharyngitis from laryngitis and/or tonsillitis, but others do not. Laryngitis is confined to the larynx (voice box) while tonsillitis is inflammation confined to the tonsils. Since it is not unusual for a pharingitis to spread to adjacent structures like the tonsils or larynx, it is not unreasonable to lump these inflammatory diseases together; however, the symptoms are slightly different for each disease.

There are three types of pharyngitis

  1. non-exudative (does not produce fluids like pus; this is the most common form of pharyngitis and usually caused by viruses),
  2. exudative (produces a body fluid like pus; this usually suggest a bacterial cause), and
  3. ulcerative (production of small ulcers and/or a grayish membrane on parts of the pharynx). Ulcerative pharyngitis (mainly caused by bacteria) is infrequently seen but is considered to be a medical emergency.

Is a sore throat contagious?

Yes, pharyngitis (viral and bacterial) is contagious and can be transmitted from one person to another. Usually, mucus, nasal discharge and saliva can contain the viruses and/or bacteria that can cause sore throat . Consequently, even kissing can cause transfer of these organisms. Unfortunately, some of these viruses and bacteria that cause sore throat can survive for a period of time on objects like towels, brushes or even clothing, so that contact with these contaminated items can spread the disease.

Sore throat caused by allergy, toxins, trauma or cancers are not contagious. The focus of this article will be on sore throat caused by viruses and bacteria since these are the most common causes of sore throat.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/16/2015

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