Sore throats are all the same, right? No, not really. Your sore throat, even if it feels like the same scratchy, burning, tenderness that you had last year, could be caused by a completely different bacteria or virus. Here’s how to differentiate between strep throat, tonsillitis, and sore throat caused by a cold.

Strep throat

Strep throat is caused by infection of streptococcus bacteria. Your doctor will need to take a swab of your throat in order to diagnose strep. A sore throat caused by strep is usually more painful than a cold and can be accompanied by fever, white spots on the tonsils, and loss of appetite. Strep throat is most often treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids. With proper treatment, strep throat is usually gone in 7-10 days.


Sore throat as a cold symptom will usually go away within 2-3 days. Other symptoms that accompany a cold, such as runny nose and congestion, may linger. Colds are caused by a virus, not bacteria. As a result, there’s no cure. Treat symptoms of a cold-based sore throat by drinking warm nondairy liquids, such as tea,  gargling with saltwater, and consider over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.


Tonsillitis is inflammation or infection of the tonsils. It can be caused by bacteria or a virus. It doesn’t accompany a runny nose or congestion like colds do but typically presents as swollen tonsils and lymph nodes. The tonsils may have yellow or white spots and you will likely have trouble swallowing. With tonsillitis, the voice may change as a result of swelling and you may develop bad breath.

Be sure to see your Orlando ear, nose, and throat doctor if your sore throat is making sleeping or breathing difficult, is accompanied by a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or a rash.

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