How To Tell If You Have Sore Throat or Strep Throat

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A sore throat can stem from all sorts of causes: viruses, bacteria, allergies, dry air, and even drainage from a runny nose. And while it may not seem like it, not all sore throats are equal. A runny nose or allergies are undoubtedly painful and annoying to deal with, but thankfully they go away on their own. While the same applies to strep throat, it is a more serious condition that requires a doctor’s diagnosis and proper treatment to prevent it from worsening.

If you suspect you have strep throat, visiting the doctor is necessary for two reasons. First, the issue could worsen since the bacteria that causes strep throat can also spread to other people and other tissues in your body, bringing about a worse infection. Second, strep throat that is left untreated can result in more severe illnesses like rheumatic fever (a potentially lethal disease that can harm the heart valves) in rare circumstances. But how can you tell if you are dealing with regular sore or strep throat? Read on to learn more about how to tell which is which.

Symptoms between sore throat vs strep throat

The flu and common cold are viral infections that can cause sore throat along with other symptoms such as:

  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Runny nose

The primary symptom that sets sore throat apart from strep throat is coughing. Thus, you will not have a cough if you have strep throat. Moreover, strep throat shows visible pus or exudate at the back of your throat, so you can also check that by looking into your mouth using a mirror.

The common cold generally takes a few days to develop and goes away on its own in five days or a week, but that is not the case with strep throat, which is a bacterial infection.

If you were recently exposed to someone with strep throat, it is vital to share that information when seeing a doctor. This is because strep spreads easily through sharing personal items with those infected, coming into close contact with them, or even in the air by coughing or sneezing. Strep throat also comes with more severe symptoms than the common cold, including:

  • Sudden sore throat
  • Fever
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pains
  • Red tonsils with white spots on top
  • Swollen neck glands

Since viral illnesses can share these same symptoms, it is essential to get a throat swab to verify if there are strep bacteria (Streptococcus pyogenes) in your throat if you ever experience any of the above symptoms.

Tips for relieving strep throat

After making a confirmed diagnosis of strep, your doctor will generally prescribe antibiotic treatment for your strep throat. However, do note that taking antibiotics for sore throat without a prior diagnosis confirming you have strep can cause unwanted resistance to the medication or lead to unnecessary side effects.

And while most cases of strep throat will self-resolve, there is the risk of it developing into a rheumatic fever if left unchecked, reinforcing the importance of testing. Antibiotic treatments for strep usually take ten days, but those for sore throat are less defined since there is no one set cure for the virus that causes it. As such, you’ll have to wait until the virus works its way out of your body and take the necessary steps to manage your symptoms. Natural remedies for sore throat include:

  • Gargling warm salt water
  • Sucking on ice chips
  • Drinking plenty of warm liquids and plain water
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen for relief
  • Getting plenty of rest


If you are unsure about the common illnesses ailing you, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor to make sure. While plenty of home remedies help relieve your symptoms, talking to a healthcare provider is the best way to know what’s happening to your body and the available treatments to fix it. With MYCLNQ, the leading app for telemedicine in Singapore, you can get quick access to the certified medical professional that is best suited to address your concerns and provide you with the prescription you need. Contact us today to learn more details!

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