Dr Bernadette Carr: Is there a difference between pharyngitis and laryngitis?

Q. Should I visit my GP?
A. Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx that is a sore throat, which is often the result of a viral infection and associated with acute nasal infections.

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx (voice box), usually caused by a viral infection or a bacterial infection. Antibiotics should only be prescribed if the infection is believed to be caused by bacteria.

The hoarse voice that is associated with laryngitis is only temporary as the vocal cords become inflamed while you have the infection. In some cases it can be caused by overuse of the vocal cords.

If the onset of a sore throat is sudden it is likely to be caused by a virus. To avoid these infections, hygiene is important and I would advise the following:

* Wash your hands frequently to prevent the virus entering through the eyes or nose.

* Be careful touching objects when away from home such as keyboards and door handles.

* Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough and throw them away immediately after use.

In general, treatment for both of these is similar. It is important not to smoke and to avoid smoky environments. Drink plenty of fluids as it helps to stay hydrated, though it may be painful to swallow, take a painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Gargling with warm salt water or sucking throat lozenges may help to soothe your throat.

Resting your voice will certainly help, this means not talking loudly or shouting and not talking for long periods. Whispering will actually be more painful as it makes the larynx work harder, aim for a soft low voice instead.

As these conditions will usually resolve by themselves it should not be necessary to see your GP. However, if you experience difficulty in breathing or any other symptoms that causes concern, you need to seek medical help urgently.

If hoarseness or a change in voice persists for more than a couple of weeks you should seek medical advice as this is unlikely to be simply a sore throat.

Can you get shingles if you have never had chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a very common childhood illness, particularly in children under the age of 10, though it may occur at any age. Most children will catch it and make a full recovery.

It is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus which causes fever and a rash of red itchy blister spots and most outbreaks are between March and May. Some children will have a few spots while others may have spots over their entire body. The spots crust over to form scabs and they will eventually drop off within a week or two.

Chickenpox is very infectious and is spread by direct person-to- person contact; coughing and sneezing. It is infectious from a few days before the onset of the rash and not more than six days after the first spot appears.

It takes seven days to 21 days to develop symptoms after catching the virus (most commonly 10-14 days). For someone who has not had chickenpox, they are 90% likely to develop it if they come in to contact with someone who has the infection.

Shingles is a painful, itchy, blistering rash caused by a viral infection affecting skin served by a particular sensory nerve, usually on the trunk. It is also caused by varicella zoster virus.

If you have had chicken pox as a child, the virus would lie dormant in the nerve roots next to your spinal cord. Later in life the virus could be reactivated and spread along the path of the nerve to cause the typical shingles rash. The reasons for this re-activation are often unknown, but would include other illness, lowered immunity or stress.

You cannot ‘catch’ shingles from other people. However, if you have never had chicken pox you could catch this from a person with shingles, but usually only by direct skin-on-skin contact with the active rash, or affected bedding/clothing, until the rash has dried out and scabbed over.


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