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Tonsillitis Vs. Strep Throat. What's the Difference?

Tonsillitis Vs. Strep Throat. What's the Difference?

It’s cold and flu season, so when your child comes down with a sore throat, it’s easy to assume it’s the onset of a respiratory infection. While some illnesses come and go, slowing your child for a bit before moving on, not all sore throats are of the harmless variety. 

Strep throat happens when a particular bacteria takes hold. It arrives without respiratory symptoms and it can produce significant pain. Leaving strep throat untreated could expose your child to serious complications. Tonsillitis is usually a less serious viral infection, but it’s possible for strep to infect the tonsils as well. 

Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon MD, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of strep throat. We can administer in-office tests for the streptococcus bacteria while you wait, making treatment fast and easy. If it’s strep throat, your child will start feeling better in 24 to 48 hours. 

Defining tonsillitis

Any inflammation of the pair of round tissue pads in the back of the throat — the tonsils — is called tonsillitis. In most cases, this inflammation results from viruses, such as those that cause colds or flu. 

The specific bacteria that causes strep throat — group A streptococcus — can also infect the tonsils. Other strep bacteria strains can cause inflammation, as can bacteria not related to the streptococcus family. 

You may see red and inflamed tonsils at each side of your child’s throat. There could also be white or yellow spots over the redness. Other symptoms of tonsillitis include: 

Younger children may seem fussy or without appetite. Those who can’t communicate their pain may drool due to an inability to swallow comfortably. 

Strep throat

Signs and symptoms of strep throat make it somewhat different from tonsillitis. While it shares many of the symptoms of tonsillitis (the tonsils can be infected by strep too), small red spots tend to show on the back of the roof of the mouth. 

One of the most distinct signs that a sore throat is due to strep is the speed of onset. A child with strep throat might be fine at breakfast and unable to swallow by lunch time. Viral sore throats typically come on slowly, developing over a day or two. 

Otherwise, strep throat and tonsillitis have fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and headaches. Strep throat can also produce a rash and young children are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting. 

Treating strep throat

Strep throat typically responds well to a course of antibiotics. Your child will usually start feeling better by the next day, but it’s important that they finish the prescription as Dr. Tandon instructs. They can feel better before the strep infection is fully defeated. 

Without treatment, it’s possible for the streptococcus infection to spread. These complications include scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, kidney inflammation, or a type of arthritis that causes inflamed joints. 

You can reach Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon MD by phone or online. Request an in-person or virtual appointment for your child as soon as you suspect a sore throat might be streptococcus. 

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