Is Your Sore Throat a Cold, Strep Throat, or Tonsillitis

Sore throats can be caused by viruses or bacteria . The most common causes of sore throats are viruses. Viral sore throats are often accompanied by other cold symptoms that may include a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes, and sneezing. Other causes of sore throat include smoking, pollution or irritants in the air, allergies, and dry air.

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If you have a cough and drippy nose along with your sore throat, that could be good news. You may feel crummy, but you’re less likely to have a serious infection. You probably just have a common cold virus and post-nasal drip.

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Strep throat can cause more serious illnesses, such as rheumatic fever, a disease that may harm the heart valves. That’s why it’s important to get proper medical treatment. With proper treatment, strep throat is usually cured within 10 days.

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Are Strep Throat Symptoms Different From a Sore Throat With a Cold?

They may feel the same, but a common sore throat and bacterial infections are very different. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, like the cold virus. No medication will cure a cold virus — you have to let your body heal on its own. But antibiotics can fight a bacterial infection, such as strep, and stop it from spreading.

Grab a flashlight, look in the mirror, and say, “Ahhh.” You could find some important clues. You might see white dots or patches in the back of your throat. Your tonsils — the bumps on either side at the back of your throat — might be red and swollen, too. These could be signs of bacterial infection like strep throat or oral thrush, or a viral infection like oral herpes or mononucleosis. They also might be something else, like tonsil stones, which are painful calcium deposits on your throat.

Is Your Sore Throat a Cold, Strep Throat, or Tonsillitis

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In addition to a sore throat, other common cold symptoms include:

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Colds can cause a fever, but it’s usually just a mild one. If you have a sore throat and a fever over 101 F, it’s more likely to be a throat infection like strep than a simple cold. But these don’t always raise your temperature — so watch for other symptoms.

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Over-the-counter cold medications may relieve cold and sore throat symptoms. However, the benefits of these drugs are minimal. Some cold medications include:

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How Is Strep Throat Different From a Sore Throat With a Cold?

A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold. However, a sore throat from a cold often gets better or goes away after the first day or two. Other cold symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion may follow the sore throat.

When a cold causes your sore throat, it can be plenty painful, but it usually goes away after a couple of days. Bacterial infections, like strep throat, tend to cause more severe pain that doesn’t get better. With strep, it may hurt so much that you can barely swallow. Sometimes, it can cause nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, or stomach pain as well.

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