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Understanding the Difference Between a Sore Throat and Strep Throat

Understanding the Difference Between a Sore Throat and Strep Throat

Strep throat is a sudden and painful illness that’s also contagious. Fortunately, most sore throats are viral, but children between the ages of 5 and 15 are more likely to fall victim to the bacteria that cause strep throat. 

While it’s likely that your child’s immune system can clear up strep throat on its own, this may be a time to consider antibiotic treatment that provides fast relief and reduces the time that the condition is communicable. 

When you need a strep throat specialist for your child, it’s time to talk to Dr. 2 Kids, Smita Tandon, M.D., in Fountain Valley, California, for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Understanding the difference between a sore throat and strep throat can help you make the right call. 

The signs of throat pain

Both strep throat and conventional, virally caused sore throats display similar symptoms. Your child may tell you their throat hurts and they may be in discomfort when they swallow. Since sore throats are often the first symptom of a cold, they could be initially free of symptoms like runny nose and cough, the same as when they have strep throat. The initial stages of a sore throat due to cold may resemble strep throat. 

Fast onset

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a strep throat infection is the speed with which it affects your child. When they’re catching a cold, it’s often apparent over a few days that they’re not feeling well. A throat that’s scratchy one day may become sore the next. 

A strep throat infection may show no signs and then, a few hours later, your child complains of sharp pain and trouble swallowing. Strep throat is usually persistent too, while a viral sore throat may be intense for a day or two before easing up. 

Absent symptoms

Despite their similarities, strep throat and sore throat often have some major differences. Since strep isn’t a respiratory system infection, there will be none of the other symptoms common to cold and flu. Strep throat typically won’t give your child a hoarse voice. 

Coughing and runny nose remain absent and they won’t develop pink eye because of the strep bacteria. If your child has allergies, their sore throat could be accompanied by red, itchy eyes and nasal congestion, symptoms that would be absent with strep throat. 

Potential complications

Though chances are small, leaving strep throat untreated increases the risk for some complications. Rheumatic fever can affect the heart and joints, while scarlet fever features a prominent rash. Your child’s kidneys could become inflamed, and strep bacteria can cause a type of arthritis. 

The bacteria that cause strep throat could also spread to other points in the body, including the sinuses, middle ear, and blood. Treatment with antibiotics reduces the risk of complications from strep throat as well as reducing the chance that your child infects other people. 

Contact Dr. 2 Kids, Smita Tandon, M.D., when your child has symptoms that suggest a sore throat that’s out of the ordinary. You can reach the office by phone or by using the appointment link on this page. Book now to get your child the medical care they need. 

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