The Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis

The Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis

The terms sore throat, strep throat, and tonsillitis frequently are used interchangeably, but they do not suggest the same thing.

  • Tonsillitis refers to tonsils that are swollen.
  • Strep throat is an infection caused by a specific kind of bacteria, Streptococcus. When your child has a strep throat, the tonsils are typically extremely inflamed, and the inflammation may affect the surrounding part of the throat too.
  • Other causes of sore throats are infections and may just cause inflammation of the throat around the tonsils and not the tonsils themselves.

Your hurting throat informs you that you might be coming down with something– but what is it? It could be a sign of an approaching cold, or it may be an infection such as strep or the swelling of tonsillitis. Although frequently used interchangeably, these conditions are not the exact same.

Sore Throat

In infants, toddlers, and young children, the most frequent reason for sore throats is a viral infection. No particular medicine is required when a virus is accountable, and the child needs to improve over a 7 to ten day duration. Often children who have sore throats due to infections likewise have a cold at the same time. They might establish a moderate fever, too, but they usually aren’t really sick.

One specific infection (called Coxsackie), seen most often during the summertime and fall, may cause the child to have a somewhat greater fever, more difficulty swallowing, and a sicker general feeling. If your child has a Coxsackie infection, she likewise might have several blisters in her throat and on her hands and feet (frequently called Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease). Contagious mononucleosis (frequently called “Mono”) can produce a sore throat, often with marked tonsillitis; nevertheless, most young children who are infected with the mononucleosis virus have couple of or no symptoms.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is brought on by a germs called Streptococcus pyogenes. To some degree, the symptoms of strep throat depend upon the child’s age.

  • Infants: Might have only a low fever and a thickened or bloody nasal discharge.
  • Toddlers: May also have a thickened or bloody nasal discharge with a fever. Such children are typically quite grouchy, have no hunger, and typically have swollen glands in the neck. Often toddlers will suffer stomach pain instead of a sore throat.
  • Children over age three: They are frequently more ill and may have an exceptionally painful throat, fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius), swollen glands in the neck, and pus on the tonsils.

It’s important to be able to differentiate a strep throat from a viral sore throat, because strep infections are treated with antibiotics.

The Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis

Medical diagnosis & Treatment

If your child has a sore throat that continues (not one that disappears after her first drink in the early morning), whether it is accompanied by fever, headache, stomachache, or severe fatigue, you need to call your pediatrician. That call must be made more urgently if your child seems very ill, or if she has trouble breathing or severe problem swallowing (causing her to drool).

Throat culture

This may suggest a more severe infection. The doctor will analyze your child and may carry out a throat culture to determine the nature of the infection. To do this, he will touch the back of the throat and tonsils with a cotton-tipped applicator and after that smear the tip onto an unique culture meal that permits strep bacteria to grow if they are present. The culture dish typically is taken a look at twenty-four hours later for the existence of the bacteria.

Rapid strep test

Most pediatric workplaces carry out quick strep tests that offer findings within minutes. If the fast strep test is negative, your doctor may confirm the result with a culture. An unfavorable test indicates that the infection is presumed to be due to a virus. In that case, antibiotics (which are antibacterial) will not help and require not be prescribed.


If the test reveals that your child does have strep throat, your pediatrician will prescribe an antibiotic to be taken by mouth or by injection. If your child is given the oral medication, it’s essential that she take it for the full course, as prescribed, even if the symptoms improve or go away.

If a child’s strep throat is not treated with antibiotics, or if she doesn’t complete the treatment, the infection might worsen or infect other parts of her body, resulting in conditions such as abscesses of the tonsils or kidney problems. Neglected strep infections also can result in rheumatic fever, a disease that impacts the heart. Nevertheless, rheumatic fever is unusual in the United States and in children under 5 years of ages.


Many types of throat infections are contagious, being passed primarily through the air on beads of wetness or on the hands of infected children or grownups. Because of that, it makes sense to keep your child away from people who have symptoms of this condition. However, the majority of people are contagious before their first symptoms appear, so frequently there’s truly no useful method to avoid your child from contracting the disease.

In the past when a child had a number of sore throats, her tonsils may have been gotten rid of in an effort to avoid further infections. But this operation, called a tonsillectomy, is suggested today just for the most severely afflicted children. Even in tough cases, where there is repeated strep throat, antibiotic treatment is typically the best solution.

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