Bumps in the back of the throat are typically due to pharyngitis, an inflammation of the pharynx. It usually causes a sore throat. Common causes of pharyngitis include viral or bacterial infections, such as the flu or common cold.

Some doctors refer to the bumpy, inflamed appearance of pharyngitis as “cobblestone throat.” These bumps may look like a white pimple on the back of the throat.

Read on to learn more about the causes of bumps in the back of the throat, as well as home remedies and when to contact a doctor.

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Numerous infections and other conditions can cause bumps in the back of the throat.

Viral infections

Viral infections are the most common cause of a sore throat. Viruses that can cause bumps on the back of the throat include:

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections may also cause bumps at the back of the throat. This can happen after exposure to the bacteria group A strep, which can cause streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat).

Other causes

When pharyngitis is chronic, it is usually because something continuously irritates the throat, rather than because a person has an infection.

Other possible causes include:

People with swelling or lumps at the back of the throat might worry that they have cancer. Cancer does not typically cause pimple-like bumps at the back of the throat. However, it is important to contact a doctor about any growth or swelling that does not go away.

Learn more about what can cause a sore throat.

Bumps on the back of the throat can look like white bumps or patches on the back of the throat.

In addition to seeing bumps at the back of the throat, a person may have swelling at the back of the mouth or throat. It may also affect the tonsils.

Some other symptoms that a person might experience include:

A doctor may be able to diagnose the cause of the bumps by looking at the throat. Some other tests that may aid diagnosis include:

  • a blood test for if they suspect mono
  • a throat culture to test for Streptococcus bacteria, which cause strep throat
  • a throat culture to test for other viruses

A doctor may also ask questions about how long the throat has been sore and whether the person has a history of allergies, acid reflux, or other conditions that may cause bumps on the back of the throat.

Most infections that cause bumps in the back of the throat are viral and will go away without medical treatment. The common cold and flu usually take about a week to go away.

Some infections may take longer, though most go away within 7–10 days. If symptoms are due to mono, they can last for 4 weeks or longer.

A doctor or pharmacist may recommend home remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) products to help relieve pain and speed up healing.

Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but many people with a cobblestone throat do not have a bacterial infection. Taking too many antibiotics increases antibiotic resistance, making it less likely that these medications will work in people who really need them, so a doctor may not recommend them if other treatments are effective at managing symptoms.

A 2017 study of 2,000 people seeking treatment for a sore throat found that just 160 (8%) needed antibiotics.

Many home remedies can help relieve the symptoms of a sore throat and reduce the swelling and bumps. These remedies include:

  • taking OTC pain relief medication such as ibuprofen
  • drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated
  • gargling with warm salt water, mixing 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of water
  • sucking on throat lozenges for adults
  • using a humidifier

A doctor can advise on more ways to reduce pain and manage symptoms.

Learn more about treating a sore throat.

A person with a cold or another suspected virus who develops bumps at the back of their throat can usually try home treatment for a few days.

People should contact a doctor if:

  • symptoms get worse over several days
  • symptoms do not improve with home treatment
  • the pain is severe

It is best to seek medical advice if a parent or caregiver suspects a virus in an infant.

It is important to go to the emergency room if throat pain makes breathing very difficult or if the throat feels as though it is closing. If a baby or child has difficulty breathing, seek emergency care.

Here are some frequently asked questions about bumps on the back of the throat.

What is the virus that causes bumps in the back of the throat?

Viruses that can cause bumps on the back of the throat include influenza viruses, viruses that cause the common cold, chickenpox, herpes simplex virus, croup, and mono.

Can stress cause cobblestone throat?

Stress can increase a person’s risk of infection. If a person develops a throat infection, this can cause cobblestone throat.

What does cobblestoning indicate?

Cobblestone throat is a term doctors may use to describe bumps and inflammation on the back of the throat. There are numerous possible causes, including infections, allergies, postnasal drip, and acid reflux.

Does strep cause bumps in throat?

Strep throat can cause bumps in the throat. Other symptoms include white patches or streaks on the tonsils, red spots on the roof of the mouth, pain when swallowing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

Bumps in the back of the throat can be due to pharyngitis, which is inflammation of the pharynx. Other conditions that can cause bumps or spots on the throat include bacterial infections, viral infections, acid reflux, and allergies.

Home remedies and OTC treatments may help manage symptoms. A doctor may recommend antibiotics for a bacterial infection in some cases.

As babies and young children are more vulnerable to infection, it is important to seek medical care for any unusual symptoms, including bumps in the back of the throat.

Older children and most adults can wait to see whether their symptoms go away with rest and home remedies. It is best to contact a doctor for severe or worsening pain or other symptoms.