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Cold and Flu Center

A Sore Throat Without Congestion

author image Diane Marks
Diane Marks started her writing career in 2010 and has been in health care administration for more than 30 years. She holds a registered nurse license from Citizens General Hospital School of Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in health care education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
A Sore Throat Without Congestion
A young woman has her throat checked by a doctor. Photo Credit: stockvisual/iStock/Getty Images

A sore throat without congestion is commonly caused by pharyngitis, an infection in the pharynx, according to MedlinePlus. Pharyngitis is the most common reason people visit a family doctor, according to the Merck Manuals. A sore throat with congestion is commonly caused by allergies, postnasal drip or the common cold. A sore throat may be a sign of a serious medical condition requiring a doctor's evaluation. Before treating the sore throat, talk with a medical professional for proper diagnosis.

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Pharyngitis is caused by bacteria or a virus that affects the back of the throat. The Merck Manual states that most cases of pharyngitis are the result of a virus. The virus or bacteria are transferred by human to human contact. For example, if someone with a virus coughs into his hands and then shakes another person’s hand, the virus may spread between the hands.


According to the Merck Manuals, the most common symptom of pharyngitis is a sore throat. It can be accompanied by a fever, joint pain, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, headache or skin rashes. The ears may experience pain because the ears and throat share the same nerves. The sore throat may lead to a tickle in the throat that produces a cough.


MedlinePlus warns that the use of antibiotics will only help treat bacterial infections and will have no effect on viral infections. Drink cold beverages and warm liquids with honey and lemon to soothe the throat. Gargle warm salt water a few times a day, suck on hard candies and use a cool humidifier to add moisture to air. Some over-the-counter medications can be used to treat the symptoms, such as pain relievers and cough suppressants.

Time Frame and Additional Symptoms

Most sore throats go away on their own within a week. If a sore throat persists for more than a week, talk with a doctor. If a sore throat is accompanied with a fever, a rash or swollen lymph nodes, seek medical attention, as these can be signs of a more serious condition.


In rare cases, pharyngitis can lead to extreme swelling in the throat that can cut off a person’s ability to breathe, according to MedlinePlus. If someone becomes unconscious or appears pale in color, seek immediate medical attention.

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