People can get a sore throat for a variety of reasons. Often, a sore throat is simply an indication of a cold coming on. But how do people know if a sore throat is a cause for concern? Some common conditions that cause this symptom include tonsillitis, strep, and allergies. Here are some tips to help spot the difference between these 3 conditions.
Symptoms of tonsillitis
Tonsillitis is an inflammation in the tonsils. The tonsils are the small oval-shaped areas of tissue at the back of the throat. When these get inflamed, the result can be a pain in the throat. In addition to a sore throat, this condition also causes red, swollen tonsils with white or yellow patches. Tonsillitis is often accompanied by a fever and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Particularly in children, the condition can also cause a stomachache.
Symptoms of strep throat
Strep throat is a bacterial infection with a primary symptom of pain and inflammation in the throat. People who have strep often experience a sudden fever, chills, loss of appetite, and a red throat with white patches. Because the symptoms of strep and tonsillitis can look similar, patients should see a doctor any time a fever accompanies a sore throat. Fortunately, healthcare providers can do a rapid strep test in the office to determine right away if strep is the reason for the symptoms.
Symptoms of allergies
People with seasonal allergies often have symptoms of a sore throat. However, the main difference between allergies and other conditions is that a fever does not accompany allergies. Often, allergies also cause itchy, watery eyes and an itchy nose. Depending on the type of allergy, people may also experience a rash or hives.
Tonsillitis, strep, and allergies are not the only reasons people may experience a sore throat. A scratchy, dry throat may a symptom of certain viruses, such as the common cold, influenza, chickenpox, or measles. Sometimes, a sore throat is the result of cigarette or tobacco smoke, air pollution, or other chemicals.
When to seek treatment
If a viral infection causes a sore throat, the symptoms will typically resolve within 2-7 days. However, if symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. If a person is having trouble swallowing, breathing, or a fever over 101 F, seek treatment. If needed, a doctor can recommend an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for further diagnosis and treatment.