Pharyngitis: Nursing

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Pharyngitis, more commonly known as sore throat, is an inflammatory disease of the pharynx, or the back of the throat, and it’s most often caused by an invading pathogen like a virus or bacteria, and rarely by fungi.

Now, let’s quickly review a bit of anatomy and physiology of the respiratory tract. When we breathe in, air enters the respiratory tract through the nose or mouth, respectively into the nasal and oral cavities, and then into the pharynx. At each side of the back of the throat, there is a pair of structures called adenoids and tonsils, which are small clumps of lymphoid tissue that act as the body's first line of defense that swallow harmful foreign particles and pathogens that enter through the nose or mouth. The lower part of the pharynx is continuous with the larynx or the voice box. Now, the pharynx also connects the oral cavity to the esophagus. So, at the top of the larynx sits a spoon-shaped flap of cartilage called the epiglottis, which acts like a lid that seals the airway off while eating or drinking, so that anything we consume can only go one way, down the esophagus and towards the stomach. In contrast, during breathing, the epiglottis stays open, so that air can make its way into the larynx, and then continue its journey through the trachea, or windpipe, towards the lungs.


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