Health A-Z

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Because antibiotics do not work against viruses, viral pharyngitis usually is treated by treating the symptoms to make you feel more comfortable until your body's immune system defeats the infection. These measures include:

  • Getting plenty of rest (either in or out of bed)

  • Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin (in adults only) to relieve throat pain

  • Drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration

  • Gargling with warm salty water to ease throat pain

  • Drinking warm liquids (tea or broth) or cool liquids or eating gelatin desserts or flavored ices to soothe the throat

  • Using a cool mist vaporizer to relieve throat dryness

  • Using nonprescription throat lozenges or anesthetic throat sprays

These measures will help to ease your discomfort with any type of throat infection. If you have strep throat, you also will take antibiotics to prevent complications. Your doctor will prescribe a 10-day course of penicillin or amoxicillin to eliminate the strep bacteria. If you are allergic to penicillin, including amoxicillin, you may be given erythromycin (sold under several brand names) or one of the other macrolides, such as azithromycin (Zithromax). It's important to take all the medication, even after you start to feel better.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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