Strep Throat, Sore Throat vs Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis

Pharyngitis is a pharynx infection in the back of the neck. Pharyngitis can also cause bruises and trouble swallowing in the throat. In the most basic terms pharyngitis is in fact the medical definition of a sore throat.

It is necessary to determine the origin in order to properly treat a sore throat. Viral infections happen to be the most common cause of pharyngitis. Sometimes however a bacterial infection can cause soar throat. The name of the bacteria that causes it is group A Streptococcus (group A strep). Which effectively means that strep throat is, basically a sore throat caused by a bacterial infection.

A human throat is a complex appendage composed of varies components, each designed to perform their own task. Tonsils happen to be among these components. They are a vital part of our immune system. Each of us is born with two of them. Their main function consists of defending our lungs against hostile germs like airborne bacteria and viruses, thereby preventing potential lung infections and or other maladies. This function makes them particularly vulnerable to a bacteria like group A strep described above. If and when group A strep bacteria infects your tonsils you can be diagnosed as having tonsillitis. Check out our dedicated article on how to treat tonsillitis , if you haven’t yet been diagnosed and are feeling some of the symptoms.

What Causes Pharyngitis

Many viral and bacterial agents can cause pharyngitis. Below are a few most common ones:

  • Rubeola (commonly known as Measles)
  • Adenovirus, one of the common cold causes
  • Varicella (commonly known as CheckenPox)
  • Croup, condition characterized by a causing swelling in vocal cords
  • Pertussis (commonly known as Wooping Cough or cough caused by a bateria called Bordetella pertussis)
  • Streptococcus group A

As previously mentioned the most common cause of a sore throats can be traced to various types of virual infections. The most common cause of pharyngitis is respiratory infections such as colds, influenza, or mononucleosis. Viral infections are not antibiotic-responsive and medication is only required to alleviate symptoms.

Pharyngitis is less commonly caused by an infection of bacteria. The need for antibiotics in bacterial infections is much more pronounced.

Strep throat, which is caused by strep-A community, is the most common bacterial infection in your throat. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and corynebacterium are rare causes of bacterial pharyngitis.

Frequent cold and flu exposure will raise the risk of pharyngitis. This refers in particular to those with frequent allergies, recurrent sinus infections, as well as prolonged exposure to those who have contracted the infection. Second-hand smoke exposure can also increase the risk

What are the pharyngitis symptoms?

Usually, the incubation period is 2 to 5 days. The symptoms of pharyngitis depend on the condition underlying it.

The symptoms of Pharyngitis include not only a sore throat but also:

  • Lymph nodes swollen
  • serious tiredness
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Aches in the muscle
  • Appetite loss

Strep throat can also cause the following symptoms while experiencing pharyngitis:

  • Swallowing difficulty
  • White or gray-based red throat
  • loss of taste (also referred to as parageusia)
  • Misfortune general
  • Skin Rash
  • malaise

The duration of the contagious period depends also on your basic condition. In the event where the infection is viral the patient remains contagious throughout the fever period.

You may be infectious from the beginning of when the symptoms become pronounced and group A strep enters the body, to 24 hours after antibiotics treatment begins.

In general, the common cold lasts less than ten days. Symptoms can peak for about three or five days, including fever. You should expect to see the symptoms last for this time if pharyngitis is linked to a cold virus.

How to find out if sore throat is pharyngitis?

Open your mouth for a visual inspection (can be done on Zoom or Skype)

Your doctor can look at your throat if you have signs of pharyngitis. You are going to search for white or gray spots, swelling and redness. Your doctor may see your nose and ears as well. They can feel the sides of your neck in order to search for swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes can appear visibly swollen via a video Skype or Zoom consultation with an online doctor.

Swab (can be done by sending results by minute mail)

You’ll most likely take a throat culture if your doctor thinks you have strep throat. This includes taking a sample of the secretions from your throat with a cotton swab. In the office, most doctors will conduct a simple strep test. In just a few minutes, this test tells your doctor whether streptococcus is positive. The swab is often sent to a laboratory for further examination and results for at least 24 hours are not available.

Blood sample (can be done at a clinic near you)

They will order blood tests if your doctor suspects a different cause of your pharyngitis. A tiny amount of blood is taken from your hand or arm and then sent to a laboratory to be examined.

Home remedies for sore throat and pharyngitis

Self care treatments and methods

Home therapy can help ease symptoms if an infection causes pharyngitis. Treatment for home comprises of:

  • Using plenty of fluids for dehydration prevention
  • Eating warm broth
  • Lukewarm salt water gargling (1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water)
  • Using a moisturizer
  • Resting until you body recharges

Consider taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain and fever relief (Advil). Throat lozenges can also be effective in relaxing a scratchy and sore neck.
Other therapies for pharyngitis are also used.

Among them:

  • Glycyrrhiza glabra (commonly known as licorice)
  • Elm Bark (commonly known as slippery elm)
  • Marshmellow root Supplements
  • Sage smoke therapy

Online Doctor intervention

Medical care for pharyngitis is often required. This is especially the case when a bacterial infection is involved. Your physician will prescribe antibiotics in such cases. Amoxicillin and penicillin are the most widely used strep throat drugs according to US CDC. The entire course of antibiotics is necessary to avoid a recovery or degradation of infection. Typically a whole duration of these antibiotics takes 7 to 10 days.

Prevention of pharyngitis

Many cases of pharyngitis can be avoided if good hygiene is maintained.

Pharyngitis prevention:

  • Stop exchanging food, beverages and food utensils
  • Avoid those who are ill
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before eating, cough and sneezing
  • If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers

Prevent the use of second-hand smoke


Most pharyngitis cases can be treated successfully at home. However, certain symptoms do require further examination with at least an online doctor.

You can see your physician if:

  • More than a week you’ve had a sore throat
  • Fever over 100.4°F has persisted
  • Your lymph nodes on ether side of your neck or head feel swollen
  • A new rash has emerged
  • After your course of antibiotics has been depleted your symptoms fail to improve
  • After your antibiotics have been finished, your symptoms return

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