What is the Difference Between a Sore Throat and Strep Throat

A sore throat is when the throat feels scratchy, tender, and possibly painful. Strep throat is a type of sore throat, but not every sore throat is strep throat.

Bacteria or viruses may cause a sore throat. Specifically, strep throat is a sore throat caused by bacteria. This is known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus. 

Most sore throats are not usually severe, and the infected person generally improves within three to seven days without treatment. Furthermore, sore throats are more common in children and adolescents. It is not uncommon for people of any age to have a couple of bouts of sore throat in one year.

Is Strep Throat Contagious 

Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious and can spread through airborne droplets when a sick person sneezes or coughs. People may also become infected by touching surfaces that an infected person had previously touched, such as a doorknob, kitchen utensils, and bathroom objects.

Symptoms of a Sore Throat 

  • Inflamed tonsils
  • Tender and swollen neck glands
  • Pain in the back of the throat
  • Pain or discomfort when swallowing
  • Fever (definitely an infection)
  • Bodily aches (probably an infection)
  • Headache (probably an infection)
  • Tiredness (probably an infection)

Symptoms of Strep Throat

  • Pain in the throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Tonsils are painful and/or swollen
  • Tiny red spots may appear on the soft part of the palate
  • The nodes of the neck are swollen and tender
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Stomachache

Treatment and Prevention of Sore Throat and Strep Throat

Antibiotics can not treat a sore throat caused by a virus, and most will get better within a week on their own. You can ask your doctor for recommendations on over-the-counter medications that could help. Other tips to feel better include gargling salt water, drinking plenty of fluids and warm beverages, and sucking on ice chips. 

We offer a rapid strep test and a culture swab test to determine if you have strep throat. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics if you test positive for strep throat. Antibiotics not only help you feel better by decreasing the severity of your symptoms, but they also decrease the time you are sick and help prevent you from spreading strep. People with strep should stay home until they have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours and are fever free. 

While there is no vaccine for strep, and you can get it more than once, there are preventative measures you can take to stay healthy and protect others:

  • Wash your hands often and use an alcohol-based hand rub when hand washing is not accessible. 
  • Avoid close contact with those that have a sore or strep throat or a cold. 
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, and don’t smoke.

Register Online for MainStreet Family Care

If you’re struggling with a sore throat or think you may have strep throat, register online to be seen at the closest MainStreet Family Care clinic near you.