Two of the most common causes of sore throats are strep throat and tonsillitis. Since both of these conditions involve the throat pain and inflammation as well as the tonsils (lymph nodes in the back of the mouth/throat), it’s easy to confuse the two conditions, especially when your child is miserable and in pain. The fact is, strep throat and tonsillitis are very different conditions that require different types of treatments. Let’s take a quick look at what the differences between strep throat and tonsillitis are.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that attacks the throat and causes pain and inflammation. It is highly contagious and is most commonly spread through coughing and sneezing. While people of all changes are susceptible to getting strep throat, it’s most common among school-aged children.
Tonsillitis is the infection of the lymph nodes or tonsils. Tonsils help prevent infection in the body by producing white blood cells that help fight infections and combat bacteria and viruses entering the body. Tonsils are located in the back of the throat, one on each side. Similar to strep throat, people of all ages are susceptible to tonsillitis, and it is a very common infection among children. It is a contagious condition and can easily spread to others through sneezing and coughing.
Both strep throat and tonsillitis involve inflammation in the tonsils. This makes diagnosis a little more difficult. Likewise, symptoms between strep throat and tonsillitis are very similar. Here are some symptoms that patients with strep throat or tonsillitis are likely to present.
- Swollen or red tonsils
- White spots on the tonsils
- A sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Upset stomach (vomiting, nausea, etc.)
- Body aches and headaches
Another similarity between strep throat and tonsillitis is that they are both contagious. Both conditions can spread to others around you through coughing, sneezing, and the transfer of saliva. Both strep throat and tonsillitis are also very common among school-aged children, although people can develop them at any age.
Strep throat is caused by specific bacteria called Streptococcus. When testing for strep throat, doctors do a throat culture test to see if Streptococcus bacteria are present at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis can also be caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, but it is not limited to just that. There are a variety of viruses and bacteria that can cause tonsillitis such as influenza, herpes simplex virus, and coronavirus. One of the easiest ways to determine if a person has tonsillitis or strep is through a throat culture test.
While home remedies are very similar for strep throat and tonsillitis, prescription treatments differ. Home treatments include rest, lots of fluids, warm liquids and salt water gargles to help with a sore throat. Prescription treatment for strep throat and tonsillitis are different. For strep throat, doctors prescribe antibiotics designed to fight the Streptococcus bacteria. Taking antibiotics as directed can significantly reduce the length of time a patient experiences symptoms. For tonsillitis, doctors first determine the bacteria or virus causing the condition. If a virus is responsible for tonsillitis, the doctor can’t treat tonsillitis directly and patients must wait for the virus to run its course. In these cases, doctors can prescribe medications to ease symptoms only. For cases in which bacteria are responsible for tonsillitis, doctors will prescribe antibiotics.
Your child’s health is your top priority, and it should also be the top priority for your family’s medical team. Children’s Health Care in Newburyport and Haverhill are committed to children’s physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being and would love to be a part of your child’s circle of care. Call 978-465-7121 or 978-388-9880 to make an appointment at the Newburyport offices. Call 978-373-5667 to make an appointment at the Haverhill office.