Decoding the difference: Strep Throat vs Sore Throat

Strep Throat vs Sore Throat

A sore throat is a for worrisome ailment that affects everyone almost once a year. Apart from the discomfort associated with it, sore throat can also be a stepping stone for any other severe problems. A sore throat and strep throat have almost similar symptoms, and it is usually tough to differentiate between the two. Biologically speaking, sore throat is a viral infection and strep throat is caused due to the invasion of Streptococcus bacterium. Let us have a look at the differences and similarities between strep throat and sore throat and how they should be treated.

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is caused when the bacteria Group A streptococcus invades your body and infects your throat and chest area. It also infects your tonsils and if detected early, it responds to any antibiotic treatment. Normally strep throat affects children in the age group 5-15, but others may also be affected. Strep throat infection is contagious through physical means. Hence, it is advised to refrain from contact of an infected person.

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat can be painful, but it would never be as painful as a strep throat. A common sore throat is caused by viral infection, and therefore its chances of responding to antibiotics reduce considerably. Mostly sore throat gets cured in a few days however if it doesn’t cured even after a week then medical help is advised.

Symptoms of a strep throat

Some visual signs usually accompany strep throat. These include white patches on throat and tonsils, dark red spots on mouth roof and skin rashes. However, you cannot diagnose a strep throat by such visible signs only. Here are some other symptoms of a strep throat.

  • Tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain in swallowing
  • Generally a feeling of illness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduction in the sense of taste
  • Nausea
  • Rashes like that seen in scarlet fever

It takes two-five days for the strep throat to start showing its symptoms. Upon correct identification, a person takes 10-12 days to get completely cured.

Causes and Symptoms of a sore throat

A sore throat causes pain, irritation and scratchy feeling in your throat and difficulty in swallowing. Usually, it is caused by infection created when your body is suffering from common cold, influenza, flu etc. Apart from that, a sore throat can also be caused by the following problems.

  • Mononucleosis
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • GERD
  • Croup
  • Allergies
  • Dryness
  • Irritants
  • Muscle strain
  • Injury to throat
  • HIV infection
  • Tumours

Symptoms of a sore throat can change and are dependent on why you are facing the problem. However, the common signs and symptoms seen may be:

  • Pain and scratchy feeling in the throat area
  • Pain while talking
  • Difficulties in swallowing food
  • Swollen glands in neck or jaw
  • Swelling and red tonsils
  • Pus or white patches are seen in tonsils
  • Hoarseness or muffled sound in voice
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Running nose
  • Chills
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

Risk factors of strep throat vs sore throat

Group A bacteria causes strep throat hence its risk factors are pretty limited. Apart from the age factor that kids aged 5-15 years, climatic changes also pose risks of strep or sore throat. Early winters and late springs are the most common times when a child may fall prey to strep throat infection. Strep throat is easily transferred from one infected person to another hence, staying in crowded places like dormitories, schools, daycare etc. increases the probability of contracting the disease.

On the other hand, risk factors for sore throat infection are many. This is because you can easily get infected if you are suffering from other ailments already. Here are some risk factors for getting a sore throat.

1. Exposure to smoke

If your workplace is exposed to smoke, it can damage your throat lining. Apart from that, smoking both active and passive can be detrimental too.

2. Close touch

Physical contact is one of the main causes of sore throat infection.

3. Sinus

Having a history of sinus problems drains mucus into your throat causing soreness there.

4. Low immunity

If your body is suffering from low immunity then it allows the virus to make an easy entry.

Diagnosis of strep and sore throat

A strep throat cannot be identified just by visual checks. If you are facing the above symptoms for a week or so you need to consult a doctor. Generally, the below-mentioned lab tests would help you to identify a strep throat infection.

  • Throat culture
  • Rapid antigen test
  • Imaging test

However, for a sore throat, a doctor can identify using some physical examination techniques. He/she would use a lighted instrument and check the inside of your throat, ears, and nasal passages. Also, he/she can check the swelling in lymph nodes or tonsils as well. Using a stethoscope, your breathing will be monitored to understand the extent of infection.

Apart from that, a throat swab test can also be conducted. A sterile swab is rubbed over the back of throat to get samples for secretions. Using the swab, the doctor will check in the laboratory to see if its viral or bacterial infection. Depending on the results, treatment is suggested.

Treatment of strep throat

Antibiotics are the most preferred form of treatment when it comes to strep throat. They not only reduce the duration and severity of symptoms but also reduce the possibility of contracting it again. Also to reduce the other symptoms like pain and fever, the doctor may prescribe over the counter medicines like Tylenol, Advil, Motrin etc.  After regular treatment, Strep throat can be cured within 2-3 days. But never stop the treatment in midway as it may cause severe consequences like Rheumatic fever, kidney problems etc.

You can also practice these simple changes for quick respite:

  • Lots of rest and plenty of fluid intakes
  • Eating foods which are easy to swallow especially in the mashed form
  • Gargling with warm and salty water regularly
  • Using a humidifier especially in the room where the patient stays
  • Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness in and around that place
  • Stay away from allergens which can cause the problem to become more aggravated.
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Apple cider Vinegar gargle
  • Garlic with honey for taste
  • Lemon and honey at regular intervals
  • Sage tea or sage with a lemon combination
  • Chamomile tea

Treatment of a sore throat

Since sore throat pain is much less severe, you can take medications to reduce it or to treat the exact cause of it. You can take OTC medicines like aspirin and Tylenol for immediate respite. However, do not give aspirin to small kids and teenagers as it might give rise to a problem known as Reye’s syndrome.

If a sore throat is a result of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, you may take antacids to remove the symptoms. Take H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors as they also prove helpful. Antibiotics in case of a sore throat may not effective at all. However, if your sore throat moves into complications like pneumonia, bronchitis and rheumatoid, then you may have to take an antibiotic treatment.

Initially, you may get your sore throat treated by using home-made remedies like salt water gargles, honey, plenty of fluids and ample rest. If a sore throat does not reduce after a week, it could be that it is because of strep throat or any other reason. When you visit your doctor, a swab test will be conducted to find out the actual cause. If your symptoms become much more severe like trouble in breathing, swallowing problems, high fever, and stiff neck, medical help is recommended.

Having a sore throat is a consequence of many other infections and ailments. Once they reduce, chances are that sore throat will also reduce considerably. On the other hand, a strep throat is a clear-cut bacterial infection and can be treated only with medications. Once tests are done and results confirmed, it is best to take adequate precautions and proper medication immediately. Delay in treatment or leaving the course of medicine in between can cause the same infection again.

Also, strep throat is usually more prone to target people in the age group 5-15, and the chances of any normal person getting it are usually slim. However, if you do experience symptoms of the same, it is better to take help as ignorance can cause severe consequences as well.



Also Recommended:

What to Eat With a Sore Throat? 13 Delicious Options to Heal Throat

15 Main Causes Of Sore Throat On One Side

Strep Throat in Babies- Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Home Remedies


Shyamala Rajasekar

Foodaholic with an untrustworthy appetite. Meat lover. She cannot write bios.

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