When a sore throat is more than a sore throat?

Sore Throat

Simple cold versus strep throat

Sore throats can be the first sign of a cold, runny nose coming next along with a dry cough that can linger well beyond when the cold is gone. 


Sore throats can be painful and annoying, however most sore throats are caused by a minor illness and go away without medical treatment within a few days.

But not all sore throats are created equal. Strep throat is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus can be much more serious as the bacteria that cause strep throat can spread to other tissues, causing a more serious infection.


When it’s a sore throat

Sore can be caused by many different factors. The most common causes of sore throats are viruses or bacteria but other causes can be from dry air, allergies or even drainage from a runny nose can make your throat hurt.

Symptoms that your sore throat is caused by a cold virus can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red or watery eyes


Colds usually take several days to develop and typically go away on their own within five to seven days.

When it’s strep throat

While allergies or a runny nose are painful nuisances, strep throat is a more serious illness that needs medical treatment.

Strep throat infections are very contagious. They are usually passed directly from person to person. Strep throat is common in school-age children. Children under 2 years old and adults not exposed to children are much less likely to get strep throat. [3]

Untreated people remain infectious for 2 to 3 weeks after becoming ill. Treated people are infectious for about 24 hours after appropriate antibiotic treatment begin. [4]

The symptoms of a strep throat infection may include:

  • Chills
  • Sore, red throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling tired
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes ("glands") in the neck
  • Loss of appetite

One of the key points of difference in the symptoms of a sore throat compared to strep throat is that a cough does not develop if the cause is strep throat.

Strep throat is a serious medical condition and needs to be immediately treated as there are other complications that can come from strep throat such as rheumatic fever, which can damage the heart valves and affect your joints and brain, and lead to heart disease.


Treatment of Strep Throat

Diagnosis of strep throat is made by via testing a culture taking from a throat swab.

After diagnosis of strep throat, Dr Indu Gunawardena may prescribe a course of antibiotics. It is very important to take all the prescribed medicine, even after the symptoms have gone away, to prevent the infection from coming back.

To learn more, contact us to make an appointment with Dr Indu to discuss your concerns and treatment options on strep throat.