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Pharyngitis Follow-up

  • Author: John R Acerra, MD; Chief Editor: Pamela L Dyne, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 05, 2015

Further Outpatient Care

See the list below:

  • Follow-up for GAS pharyngitis
    • A standardized protocol needs to be established at each institution or ED to ensure follow-up for patients with pending throat cultures. This is particularly challenging with unreliable patients and with a shift-dependent ED practice.
    • Whether or not they are given antibiotics, patients diagnosed with pharyngitis should follow up if symptoms do not improve within 72 hours.
    • Routine posttreatment throat cultures are unnecessary and may remain positive for several weeks.[1]
    • A follow-up culture should be taken if history or evidence of rheumatic fever or if symptoms are consistent with a relapse.[26]
  • Patients with infectious mononucleosis should be instructed to follow up with their physician in 1 week. These patients should also be advised to avoid contact sports.[11]
  • Viral pharyngitis generally requires no specific follow-up unless immunosuppression is suspected or symptoms worsen.
  • Patients with suspected malignancy should be referred to an otolaryngologist for follow-up.

Further Inpatient Care

See the list below:

  • Inpatient care usually is not indicated except in cases such as epiglottitis, severe dehydration, deep-space infection, other airway compromise, or diphtheria.


See the list below:

  • Transfer usually is not necessary for simple acute pharyngitis.
  • The airway should be evaluated and endotracheal intubation should be performed prior to transfer if a high probability of compromise exists during transfer.


See the list below:

  • Throat cultures should be obtained on close contacts of patients with a history of a nonsuppurative complication (acute rheumatic fever) of a streptococcal infection or if recurrent outbreaks of GAS pharyngitis occur.[5]
  • Diphtheria immunization is highly effective and recommended for nonimmunized patients to reduce potential morbidity and mortality of the disease.


See the list below:

  • General complications of pharyngitis (mainly seen in cases of bacterial pharyngitis) include sinusitis, otitis media, epiglottitis, mastoiditis, and pneumonia.
    • Suppurative complications of bacterial pharyngitis result from spread of infection from pharyngeal mucosa via hematogenous, lymphatic, or direct extension (more common with GAS); peritonsillar abscess; retropharyngeal abscess; or suppurative cervical lymphadenitis. It is unclear if antibiotic therapy can prevent these complications as abscess isolates are often polymicrobial. Many experts believe these are actually independent entities and not related to GAS pharyngitis.
  • In addition to the above general complications, nonsuppurative complications (3% incidence) specific to GAS infection include acute rheumatic fever (3-5 wk postinfection), poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, and toxic shock syndrome.
  • Complications of infectious mononucleosis include splenic rupture (contact sports should be avoided for 6 wk), hepatitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, encephalitis, hemolytic anemia, agranulocytosis, myocarditis, B-cell lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Use of penicillin in cases of infectious mononucleosis results in near 100% incidence of rash.[11]


See the list below:

  • Most cases of pharyngitis resolve spontaneously within 10 days, but it is important for the clinician to be aware of potential complications listed above.
  • Treatment failures are frequent and are attributed mainly to poor compliance, antibiotic resistance, untreated close contacts, carrier states, and antibiotic-related or copathogenic suppression of host immunity and necessary flora.[4] Of note, GAS resistance to penicillin is NOT thought to be a reason for treatment failures with penicillin.
  • Patients should expect improvement in symptoms in penicillin-sensitive streptococcal pharyngitis within 24 hours of initiation of treatment. Contagious and often the febrile periods also are reduced to 1 day. It should be noted that pain medications and steroid use for pharyngitis are extremely effective for improving symptoms of pharyngitis.[19]

Patient Education

See the list below:

  • Patients must be instructed to complete the full course of antibiotic therapy, as improvement may occur rapidly.
  • Patients should be instructed to follow up when indicated (see Further Outpatient Care).
  • Patients with infectious mononucleosis should be instructed to avoid contact sports for a period of 6 weeks because of the possibility of splenic rupture.
  • Patients should be educated about symptomatic treatment of pharyngitis.
    • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen is recommended for analgesia.
    • Saltwater gargle, warm liquids, and rest may be helpful in relieving symptoms.
  • For patient education resources, see the Infections Center. Also see the patient education articles Sore Throat and Mononucleosis.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

John R Acerra, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine; Director, International Emergency Medicine Fellowship, North Shore-LIJ Health System

John R Acerra, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Pamela L Dyne, MD Professor of Clinical Medicine/Emergency Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Pamela L Dyne, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Jerry R Balentine, DO, FACEP, FACOEP Vice President, Medical Affairs and Global Health, New York Institute of Technology; Professor of Emergency Medicine, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine

Jerry R Balentine, DO, FACEP, FACOEP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, New York Academy of Medicine, American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, American Association for Physician Leadership, American Osteopathic Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Mark W Fourre, MD Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Vermont School of Medicine; Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Maine Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Streptococcus pyogenes at 100X magnification.
Rapid antigen detection test for group A beta-hemolytic streptococci.
Posterior pharynx with petechiae and exudates in a 12-year-old girl. Both the rapid antigen detection test and throat culture were positive for group A beta-hemolytic streptococci.
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