Sore Throat: Virus or Strep?

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Are you wondering if your sore throat requires antibiotics? Strep throat, named for the Streptococcus bacterium that causes the condition, is a particularly severe form of sore throat that is best treated with antibiotics. Strep throat can strike both children and adults, but only about 5%-10% of sore throats are caused by a bacterial infection. Most sore throats are caused by viral illnesses and are not responsive to treatment with antibiotics.

A true streptococcal infection of the throat often leads to excruciating throat pain accompanied by difficulty swallowing and even speaking. Fever may be present, and the tonsils are often covered with a whitish layer of pus. Cough and runny nose are not commonly related to strep throat, but it is possible to have a streptococcal infection along with a viral upper respiratory infection and symptoms of a cold. The bacterial infection may result in enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck. Children may have an accompanying rash; a streptococcus infection along with a rash is commonly termed scarlet fever.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2014