We encourage you to practice good hygiene and physical distancing to help slow the spread of germs. If you are experiencing symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath, you should seek medical advice from a doctor (including pathology testing) and stay at home. Where any conflict may arise between the Department of Health’s advice and any information on this website, please follow advice from the Department of Health’s health alerts.

There are different types of sore throats with different causes.1 They include throat inflammation caused by infections in the throat and throat area: laryngitis, pharyngitis, or tonsillitis.1-5 50–80% of pharyngitis cases are caused by a virus.4 Since a sore throat is commonly caused by viruses like the cold and flu, it can be passed through direct contact with a person infected with the virus.6,7 In addition, other factors may increase the risk of throat inflammation such as contact with irritants (including smoking or irritant chemicals), speaking too loudly, overexertion of the vocal cords or allergies.2

So, how do you know whether you have pharyngitis vs tonsillitis, or laryngitis vs pharyngitis? Read on to find out more.

Symptoms of acute laryngitis

Laryngitis is often caused by viruses, like the cold and flu.2 Common laryngitis symptoms associated with respiratory illness include:2,5

  • Irritating cough
  • Hoarseness
  • A change in the sound of your voice (dysphonia) or the inability to speak (aphonia)
  • Sore, dry, or tickly throat
  • Difficulty swallowing

Treatment of acute laryngitis

In most cases, these illnesses heal by themselves, meaning that laryngitis treatments are sometimes not required.2 However, the symptoms can be eased by certain measures, including:2,5

  • Resting your voice.
  • Not smoking and avoiding contact with smoke
  • Inhaling steam to help with a blocked nose
  • Avoiding whispering as this may strain your voice.

Symptoms of acute pharyngitis

So, what is the difference between pharyngitis vs laryngitis? Both are often caused by cold and flu viruses.2,4,5 Laryngitis specifically refers to an inflammation of the voice box (larynx), while pharyngitis refers to an inflammation at the back of the throat (pharynx).1,2

Pharyngitis symptoms typically include:1,4

  • Fever
  • Painful swollen glands
  • Throat redness
  • Pain which can radiate into the ear

If the pharyngitis is viral, symptoms often include:1,4

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired

These symptoms always depend on the illness that’s causing the throat inflammation.1,4 Furthermore, it is important to look out for any signs indicating that it is advisable to see a doctor, for example, a high fever or a rash.1

In each case, if in doubt, it is advisable to see a doctor to determine the cause of the illness.

Treatment of acute pharyngitis

As with laryngitis, pharyngitis treatments comprise of a few home remedies.1 These include:1

  • Gargling with warm, salty water or drinking hot water with honey and lemon to help ease a scratchy throat.
  • Drinking plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Soft foods such as warm soups, yoghurts or jelly are recommended to avoid unnecessary pain when swallowing.
  • Avoiding smoking or breathing in other people’s smoke, as it can further aggravate pharyngitis.
  • Resting and avoiding heavy activity until your symptoms resolve.

Symptoms of acute tonsillitis

Tonsillitis occurs when your tonsils become infected.3 A viral infection is also the most common cause of tonsilitis.3 Common tonsillitis symptoms include:3,8,9

  • White or yellow spots on the tonsils
  • Bad breath
  • Feeling tired and unwell
  • Swollen lymph nodes below each side of the jaw
  • Pain in the ears
  • Fever
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment of acute tonsillitis

Tonsillitis treatments include rest, sufficient fluid intake and taking medication that eases pain, inflammation and a sore throat associated with the infection.3,8,9

  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep the throat lubricated and prevent dehydration; icy poles are a good option as they provide extra fluid as well as numb the sore throat.3,8,9
  • Cold, soft foods like ice cream, jelly or ice blocks can help soothe the sore throat.3,8,9
  • Rest is important for your body to recover as quickly as possible.3,9
  • Gargling warm salt water may help.3
  • Avoid substances that irritate the throat such as cigarette smoke.3

Medication to ease a sore throat

Strepsils® offers a range of sore throat medications to help relieve your sore throat including:

  • Strepsils Extra Lozenges: have antibacterial and anaesthetic action to provide rapid relief from painful inflamed sore throats.
  • Strepsils Plus Anaesthetic Lozenges: have double antibacterial action to relieve sore throats, plus anaesthetic action* to numb the throat. Also available in a throat spray .
  • Strepfen® Lozenges: contain an anti-inflammatory for relief of pain, swelling and inflammation associated with painful sore throats. Also available in a  throat spray.

When should I see a doctor about my sore throat or throat inflammation?

Sore throats will generally heal on their own with the help of the body's own defence.4 In some cases, it can help to take anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and antipyretic medication to ease symptoms.1

It is recommended to see your doctor if you have a sore throat and:1

  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Have a stiff or swollen neck
  • Have a high fever
  • Have a rash
  • Are feeling very unwell or the sore throat is getting worse
  • Are unsure in any way

If the person concerned is a child, it is vital to seek medical care immediately if they are having difficulty breathing, are drooling or are extremely unwell.9 Children who you think have tonsillitis for the first time should also be taken to the doctor.9

Preventing a sore throat and pharyngitis

Good hygiene is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu and developing a sore throat.10 This includes:10 

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Sneezing and coughing into your elbow or a tissue
  • Throwing used tissues and paper towels in the bin immediately after using them
  • Cleaning regularly touched surfaces often
  • Not sharing cups, plates, cutlery or towels
  1. Healthdirect. Sore throat (pharyngitis). Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sore-throat (accessed August 2022).

  2. Healthdirect. Laryngitis. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/laryngitis (accessed August 2022).

  3. Healthdirect. Tonsillitis. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tonsillitis (accessed September 2022)

  4. Wolford RW, et al. Pharyngitis. 2022 May 8. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.

  5. Jaworek AJ, et al. Ear Nose Throat J 2018;97(9):306–313.

  6. Allan GM and Arroll B. (2014) CMAJ. 186(3):190–199

  7. Moghadami M. Iran J Med Sci 2017;42(1):2–13

  8. Better Health Channel. Tonsillitis. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/tonsillitis (accessed August 2022).

  9. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Tonsillitis. Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Tonsillitis/ (accessed August 2022).

  10. Healthdirect. Colds. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/colds (accessed September 2022).

*In in vitro studies only.

Strepsils: Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Strepfen: Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful.