What to do to treat pus from the throat?

Bacterial and viral infections can cause the presence of pus in the throat. These are often accompanied by other clinical manifestations.

Last update: 19 January, 2022

Pus in the throat is the product of the inflammatory process secondary to infection of the tonsils or pharynx. This, in turn, It can be caused by viruses or bacteria that manage to proliferate in the area. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and fever.

The treatment of this condition is based on antibiotics if it is of bacterial origin. In addition, you can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to improve pain and fever. If bacteria are not the cause, your doctor or ear, nose, and throat doctor may consider other treatments. Do you want to know more about it?

Infections associated with pus in the throat

Although the presence of pus in the throat can be caused by viral infections, it is more common to occur in bacterial infections. However, it should be noted that inflammation of the tonsils or pharynx is more frequent in viral conditions. This may explain the rarity of this symptom.

However, these infections tend to be more common in preschool children (2 to 6 years old), pregnant women, and the elderly. They are also common among those who have diseases that compromise the immune system, such as cancer patients or carriers of the human immunodeficiency virus.

The presence of pus in the throat can be an indication of bacterial or viral infections.


virus infections

The viral infection that most often causes pus in the throat is infectious mononucleosis, derived from the Epstein-Barr virus. In this case, the pus is visualized as small whitish plaques on the tonsils that do not smell bad. In addition, there are other clinical manifestations, such as the following:

  • General discomfort.
  • Fatigue.
  • Runny nose.
  • Cough.
  • Redness of the eyes.
  • low fever

However, sometimes viral infection can be caused by the viruses that cause the common cold, such as rhinovirus, adenovirus, influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus. Less frequently, both the measles virus and the human immunodeficiency virus can cause it.

bacterial infections

Bacterial infections that usually cause pus in the throat are usually caused by streptococcus pyogenes or group A streptococcus. It is what is known as tonsillitis or strep throat.

In addition to the presence of said symptom, it is associated with the following clinical manifestations:

  • Pain that increases when swallowing.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting (especially in children).

When the tonsils and pharynx are visualized, they will be red and enlarged, with a whitish or yellowish plaque that has a bad odor.

How to differentiate a viral infection from a bacterial infection?

Although it is not decisive, observing the characteristics of the pus in the throat allows us to establish a difference. In the case of bacterial infections, this pus is usually thicker, lumpy, can adhere to the palate or the pharynx and causes a very bad smell.

Likewise, if there is a bacterial origin, there are other clinical data, such as the presence of swollen glands in the neck or under the jaw.

In any case, the only way to confirm it is through a serological study of specific antibodies against viruses, or the identification of the bacteria after taking a sample from the throat with a swab.

Are they always of infectious origin?

When pus in the throat is not accompanied by symptoms of underlying infection, such as fever, malaise, and pain on swallowing, It can be the accumulation of food debris and secretions from the mouth on the tonsils.

These are small yellow or white balls, which are called caseum or tonsilloliths. If so, it usually also manifests itself with bad breath. Fortunately, they can be eliminated with proper dental hygiene, mouthwashes, and gargling with warm salt water.



Can pus in the throat be complicated?

When there is no adequate treatment of the infection, pus can accumulate next to and behind the tonsils, generating a “peritonsillar abscess”.

In this case, antibiotic therapy should be more aggressive and drainage of accumulated pus should be done which may require the tonsils to be removed. Its accumulation in the retropharyngeal space or in the parapharyngeal space is also possible.

The accumulation of pus in the throat can lead to the formation of abscesses.


Treatment for pus in the throat

As we have mentioned, the treatment depends on the cause of the infection, which is determined by a general practitioner or otolaryngologist. Often the initial treatment is to improve symptoms.

For the above, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are indicated to reduce sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. These encompass the following options:

  • Paracetamol.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Diclofenac.
  • Ketoprofen.
  • Nimesulide.
  • Naproxen.

Also, for sore throat Sprays or mouthwashes containing dyclonine, phenol, or chlorhexidine may be indicated. By improving the sore throat, there is also an improvement in difficulty swallowing.

For viral infections, treatment consists of staying hydrated, resting, and taking steps to lessen symptoms. Meanwhile, if the pus in the throat is caused by strep throat, benzetacil, amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, or azithromycin is indicated.

If there is no improvement in throat swelling, oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be prescribed. In any case, any of the pharmacological treatments must be taken under medical prescription.

Ultimately, it must be remembered that Do not try to remove pus from the throat with your finger, cotton swab, or toothbrush. This worsens both the inflammation and the pain. Sometimes it even leads to the appearance of superinfections.

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