May also be called: Tonsillitis; Strep Throat
More to Know
A sore throat can be caused by many things, from viral infections (most often, the common cold or flu) and bacterial infections (strep throat and some cases of tonsillitis) to seasonal allergies and gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
Many sore throats are due to:
- Strep throat, which is a contagious bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils (the fleshy clusters of tissue on both sides of the back of the throat). It also can cause headache and fever.
- Tonsillitis, which is usually not serious but can lead to complications, like breathing or swallowing trouble. Most cases are caused by either a virus (such as a common cold virus or Epstein Barr virus, the virus that causes mono) or strep bacteria.
Treatment for a sore throat will depend on what's causing it. Treating an underlying condition (like GER or allergies) can bring relief, as can home care (like gargling with saltwater, running a cool mist humidifier at night, and avoiding irritants like smoke).
Strep throat requires medical treatment with antibiotics, which will improve symptoms quickly. Untreated strep throat can lead to complications like rheumatic fever (which can cause permanent heart damage), a peritonsillar abscess, scarlet fever, or kidney disease.
Treatment for tonsillitis depends on whether it is caused by a virus or by bacteria. Doctors usually will test for strep bacteria with a rapid strep test or a throat culture. Tonsillitis caused by a virus will go away on its own. If it's caused by strep bacteria, the doctor probably will prescribe an antibiotic. If so, it's important to take all of the antibiotic for as long as prescribed to help prevent complications.
People with tonsillitis or strep throat can return to activities 24 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment if there's no fever and they're feeling better. If someone is still feeling weak, tired, or achy, staying home for another day or two is recommended.
Keep in Mind
To help prevent the spread of strep throat or tonsillitis to others:
- Wash hands well and often.
- Keep eating utensils separate and wash them in hot, soapy water or a dishwasher after each use.
- Don't share food, drinks, napkins, or towels.
- Sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve, not your hands.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
Adenoids and Adenoidectomies
Just what are adenoids? And why do kids sometimes have to get their adenoids removed? Get the answers here.Read More
Having Your Tonsils Taken Out
Sometimes tonsils need to be removed, but how is it done? Find out in this article for kids.Read More
First Aid: Sore Throat
Sore throats are usually caused by viruses. Here's what to do if your child has a sore throat.Read More
Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat in kids and teens. It usually requires treatment with antibiotics, but improves in a few days.Read More
Strep throat is a common infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. Find out how to recognize the signs of strep throat and what to expect if you have it.Read More
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.Read More
You wake up and your throat is swollen and you have a fever. Could it be tonsillitis? Find out what tonsillitis is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.Read More
If your tonsils get infected, it can make your throat feel very sore. Find out more in this article for kids.Read More
Tonsillitis is an infection that makes tonsils swollen and red. It can cause a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and trouble swallowing.Read More
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. It's one of the most common surgeries kids and teens get. Find out more.Read More
Everybody's heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.Read More
Adenoids and Adenoidectomy
Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. So, what are adenoids exactly?Read More
Adenoids and Adenoidectomy
Enlarged adenoids are normal some kids, but others need surgery. Often, tonsils and adenoids are removed at the same time.Read More
A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. Find out how it happens and what to do.Read More
Strep Test: Throat Culture
Is your child having a strep test or a throat culture? Find out how these swab tests are performed.Read More