Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Strep throat vs. Viral pharyngitis

Blog contributed by Julie A. Lundblad, MSN, CRNP

How do I know if child has strep throat? Medical care providers cannot always tell by looking in the throat. Most offices can run a rapid strep test and the results are just minutes away. 80% of all sore throat office visits are viral, only 20% are from Strep.

Common symptoms of step throat:
  • Sudden onset of sore throat
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Fever >101
  • Red, swollen tonsils (sometimes white patches)
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Strep can also cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, rash, body aches, or tiny spots on the back of the throat (petechiae)

What is viral pharyngitis? Basically inflammation of the tonsils and back of the throat, with or without a fever. These are caused by viruses and upper respiratory infections.

Common symptoms of viral sore throat:
  • Sore throat, dry and scratchy
  • Runny nose, sneezing
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Low grade fever

Strep throat is contagious, so if there is a known exposure, testing is necessary.  I recommend calling your Primary Care Physician for an appointment to rule out Strep. It is usually easily treated with an antibiotic for 5-10 days. If the sore throat is viral, the treatment is supportive and symptomatic.


  1. Why aren't antibiotics usually prescribed to treat pharyngitis?

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