Sore Throat

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View The Anatomy of a Sore Throat Slideshow

Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat Symptoms

Strep throat is a condition caused by a bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics, and may cause symptoms such as:

  • Severe sore throat
  • Fever
  • Enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck

Most sore throats are caused by viral illnesses and are not responsive to antibiotics, and may cause symptoms such as:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Runny nose

Quick GuidePictures of Common Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

Pictures of Common Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

Sore throat facts

  • Most sore throats are caused by viruses or mechanical causes (such as mouth breathing) and can be treated successfully at home.
  • Sore throat symptoms include pain, burning or scratching sensations at the back of the throat, pain when swallowing, and tenderness in the neck. Sore throat symptoms may be accompanied by:
  • Home remedies for sore throat include:
    • saltwater gargles,
    • sprays, lozenges, and
    • humidifiers.
    • Do not give lozenges to young children as they are a choking hazard.
  • Any sore throat that has a rapid onset and is associated with a fever or tenderness of the front of the neck may be serious and should be seen by a doctor.
  • Any sore throat that causes a person to have difficulty swallowing (not just pain with swallowing) or breathing should be seen by a health-care professional.
  • Seek medical care immediately for a sore throat if the affected individual is unable to take his or her medications, has heart palpitations, is are lightheaded, or the tongue or lips swell up.
  • Any sore throat that lasts for more than a week should be evaluated by a health-care professional.
  • If you are pregnant and your sore throat symptoms are severe or do not resolve in three days, seek medical attention.

What is the difference between sore throat and strep throat?

Sore throat is a generic term used to describe the symptom of discomfort and pain in the throat area. It does not specify the underlying cause.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils that causes a sore throat. It is important to note that not all cases of sore throat are necessarily strep throat. Strep throat is specifically caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, and there are characteristic signs and symptoms, as well as laboratory testing, that can assist in making this particular diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015
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