Is Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis the Same Thing? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & More

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Children seem to get sick a lot and many times, sore throat, strep and tonsillitis all get used for the same condition, but they are all different and do not mean the same thing. Tonsillitis is a condition where the tonsils are inflamed. Strep throat is an infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria and causes the tonsils to become very inflamed. This inflammation can cause the surrounding part of the throat as well. Viruses can also cause sore throats and usually only cause the area around the tonsils and the throat to become inflamed, not the tonsils themselves.

Sore Throat when Swallowing

Small children almost always suffer from sore throats that are caused by a viral infection. There aren’t any medications that are needed to treat a sore throat when they are caused by a virus. Children will get better in about seven to ten days. Children with sore throats usually have a cold at the same time and they may also have a mild fever but aren’t really that sick. In the summer, the Coxsackie virus is seen more often in children. It causes a higher fever, makes swallowing more difficult and a sicker feeling in general. A Coxsackie infection can cause Hand, Foot and Mouth disease where blisters may appear in the throat, hands and feet. A sore throat can also be caused by mononucleosis where there will be marked tonsillitis, but many children don’t show any symptoms.

Strep Throat in Kids & Adults

Strep throat is caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium. The child’s age will determine the symptoms that are more likely to be present.
• Infants will have a low fever with thickened or bloody nasal discharge.
• Toddlers may also have thickened or bloody discharge from the nasal passages along with a fever. They are usually very cranky, lack an appetite and have swollen neck glands. They also complain of a tummy ache instead of a sore throat.
• Children 3 and up will be sicker and have a very painful sore throat, a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, swollen neck glands and pus on the tonsils.


Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or a wide range of infectious agents. It is diagnosed diagnosed by examination of the throat and a bacterial swab. Common symptoms include a sore throat, red and swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing, headache, coughing and chills. Most people fully recover from tonsillitis ins a few days and most symptoms resolve within one week to a week and a half.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If your child has a sore throat that doesn’t go away after taking a drink in the morning, with a fever or not, headache, stomach ache and excessive fatigue, you should call your pediatrician. A throat culture may indicate a more serious infection. The throat and tonsils will be swabbed with an applicator and smeared on a culture dish that will allow strep bacteria to grow if they are present. It will be looked at 24 hours after the swab has been taken to look for bacteria. There are rapid strep tests that can be done to get faster results. It is very important to know if you’re dealing with strep throat from a viral sore throat, because strep infections need to be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics need to be taken for the full course, even if symptoms go away. The infection may get worse and spread to other parts of the body. Tonsils may need to be removed if children have repeated sore throats in an effort to prevent future infections. It is usually only recommended for children that are most severely affected.

Pediatric ENT Care

If your child is experiencing repeated sore throats and other issues, contact ENT Specialists identify the problem and come up with a solution. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

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