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Understanding Strep Throat and Sore Throat: Symptoms and Treatment

Oct 13, 2023

Common Illnesses Treatment

Throat treatment

While sore throat and strep throat can cause discomfort and pain in the throat, they are two different conditions requiring different treatment approaches. Understanding the differences, their causes, and symptoms allows you to seek proper medical attention, obtain faster relief, and improve overall health. 

Let us explore the key differences between both conditions to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What Is a Sore and Strep Throat?

A sore throat (pharyngitis) is a scratchy or burning feeling in the back of your throat that may hurt when you swallow or talk.

Strep throat is an infection in your tonsils (the lymph nodes in the back of your throat) and throat, causing your tonsils to swell, resulting in a sore throat.

What Is the Difference Between Sore and Strep Throat?

Some distinctions between a sore and strep throat include:

  • While both conditions are very common, strep throat is contagious and becomes more severe if left untreated.
  • A bacterial infection causes strep throat, whereas viral or bacterial infections and environmental factors can cause a sore throat. Though strep throat is very common in children between 5 and 15 years, anyone can get it.

What Are the Causes of Strep Throat and Sore Throat?

Sore Throat

  • Sinus infections
  • Strep throat
  • Tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)
  • Allergies to dust mites, pollen, pets, or mold
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Overuse of the throat (such as screaming or swelling)
  • Irritants, such as spicy food, smoke, and hot beverages

Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by a group of streptococcus bacteria. Infected people can transmit the bacteria to others by coughing, talking, sneezing, and sharing utensils.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

A sore throat can cause:

  • A scratchy, swollen, itchy throat or tonsils
  • Moderate fever
  • Cough
  • Itchy eyes (if allergies are the cause)
  • Runny nose
  • Moderate rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neck lump (due to swollen glands) 
  • Earache

Symptoms of Strep Throat

Common symptoms of strep throat include:

  • A sore throat without cough/cold symptoms like congestion or runny nose
  • Fever
  • Ear infection
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Small red spots on the back of the mouth roof
  • Swollen lymph nodes (right below the earlobes)
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes accompanied by white streaks or patches

How to Differentiate Between Sore Throat and Strep Throat?

A sore throat can be a sign of strep throat. Then, how do we differentiate whether it is a common sore throat or caused by a bacterium? Let’s answer that question.

A common sore throat begins with a hoarse feeling in your throat, like if your throat as if your throat is dry or on fire. It may cause intense pain in your throat when you talk or swallow. Besides, you may also experience pain in your ears or down the side of your neck. A sore throat caused by viral infections tends to improve within some days with rest and home remedies.

Contrarily, if a strep infection causes a sore throat, you will have:

1. Red Spots:

A strep throat will cause your tonsils to swell and inflame, turning them into a deeper color than the surrounding tissue. You may notice the small red spots or streaks on your throat and mouth roof.

2. White Spots:

Along with the redness in the back of your throat, a strep infection may cause white streaks, spots, or blotches on your tonsils. In such cases, you may require a strep test to confirm what type of bacteria has caused your strep throat.

How Is Strep Throat Treated?

A strep throat treatment regimen includes antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and penicillin. Your doctor may prescribe these in injection, liquid, or tablet form for 10 or more days, depending on the severity of your infection.

How to Prevent Strep Throat?

You can protect yourself from contracting strep throat and infecting others by:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sharing your utensils with others
  • Don’t cough or sneeze in your hands. Do it into your elbow or tissue (in this case, throw the tissue into the garbage)

Final Thoughts

While sore throat and strep throat may share similar symptoms, underlying causes and treatment methods vary. So, it is crucial to understand the difference between the two for appropriate treatment and care.

Walk Into Metro Urgent Care For Sore/Strep Throat Treatment

Whether it is a sore throat or strep throat, Metro Urgent Care ensures prompt intervention and personalized care. With our immediate attention and assistance, we can assure you a speedy recovery from your symptoms while preventing potential complications that stem from untreated strep throat. Schedule an appointment today to get rid of throat troubles quickly. 

Source: CDC

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