Differences Between Strep Throat and Tonsillitis and Everything Else You Should Know

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It is common to see people get confused tonsillitis for another strep throat infection, only to realize later.  

Given their similar symptoms, it’s not uncommon to mix up the two. However, understanding the distinctions is crucial for proper treatment. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the key differences between strep throat vs tonsillitis, exploring their symptoms and treatment options. 

Tonsilitis vs Strep Throat: Understanding These Conditions

Tonsillitis occurs when an infection, either by a virus or bacterium, affects the tonsils, which are the soft tissue lumps located at the back of the throat.  

 On the other hand, strep throat occurs when a certain type of bacteria called streptococcus causes an infection in the throat area, including the tonsils. 

 While both conditions present symptoms such as a sore throat and other similarities, treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the infection. 

Tonsilitis vs Strep Throat: Similarities

Tonsillitis and strep throat are both throat conditions and can have similar symptoms, leading to confusion between the two. Here are some similarities: 

 

  • You may feel discomfort or pain in your throat. 
  • You may feel large, tender, and warm lymph nodes in the throat. 
  • You might get a fever. 
  • Your tonsils may get swollen, leading to difficulty in swallowing and talking. 
  • Other similar symptoms include headaches, sore throat, and nausea followed by a vomiting sensation. 

Tonsilitis vs Strep Throat: Differences

While tonsillitis and strep throat share some similarities, there are some differences between the two that need to be diagnosed by an experienced ENT specialist like Dr. Peter Baptista: 

 

  • In strep throat, the infection often manifests as red dots appearing on the upper side of the mouth, while tonsillitis typically presents with redness and swelling in the throat region. 
  • Strep throat commonly induces body aches, whereas tonsillitis may result in a stiff neck that is painful to move. 
  • Strep throat is one of the most common throat infections during the cold, rainy, and winter seasons, whereas tonsillitis can happen anytime if exposed to the virus, germs, or bacteria. 

Tonsilitis vs Strep Throat: Diagnosis

If you’re experiencing symptoms indicating tonsillitis or a strep throat infection, it’s wise to see Dr. Peter Baptista, an ENT specialist in Dubai, for a diagnosis. 

 

Medical history and physical exam: 

Dr. Peter will ask about your medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical exam to check for signs of infection.  

 

This usually includes: 

  • Viewing the back of your throat using a lighted instrument. 
  • Examining inside your ears and nose. 
  • Pressing gently on the lymph nodes to assess swelling. 

 

Throat culture: 

A throat culture may be ordered to ascertain the presence of Streptococcus bacteria. 

 

A long cotton swab collects saliva and cells from the back of your throat, which may cause momentary discomfort and trigger your gag reflex. This sample is then sent to the lab to detect any bacteria.  

Tonsilitis vs Strep Throat: Treatment

Tonsilitis 

Treatment for tonsillitis will depend on whether a virus or bacterium caused the infection:  

  • Viral tonsillitis: Treatment typically aims to alleviate symptoms until the infection clears up on its own, usually within 3 to 14 days. This includes rest, staying hydrated, gargling with salt water, and using over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil for fever and pain. 

 

  • Bacterial tonsillitis: Antibiotics are prescribed, along with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications, to alleviate symptoms such as pain or fever. 

 

If tonsillitis becomes recurrent or severe, surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be considered. 

 

Strep Throat 

Strep throat is treated through oral antibiotic medication.  

 In addition, home remedies like resting, staying hydrated, using throat lozenges, gargling with salt water, and taking OTC medications for fever or pain may also provide relief. 

FAQ

No, tonsil stones aren’t contagious. You can’t pass them on to other people. 

Yes, strep throat can happen even if you don’t have tonsils, as the Streptococcus bacteria can infect other parts of the throat and respiratory tract. 

An unhealthy throat may appear red or swollen or have white patches or spots on the tonsils. It may also have visible inflammation or irritation. Compared to a normal throat color, an unhealthy throat often exhibits abnormal changes in texture and coloration. 

No, tonsillitis refers to the inflammation of the tonsils, so it’s impossible to have tonsillitis without tonsils. 

Yes, even after tonsils removal, you can get strep throat. If anything, you may experience milder symptoms without the threat of red, swollen tonsils. 

Contact With Us

Contact Dr. Peter Baptista, ENT Specialist in Dubai

Understanding the differences between strep throat and tonsillitis is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. While they share similarities in symptoms, their causes and treatments vary significantly.  

 If you’re experiencing symptoms of either condition, seeking medical attention from a qualified ENT specialist like Dr. Peter Baptista is essential for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment.  

 Schedule your appointment today. 

Dr. Peter Baptista

 Dr Peter Baptista Jardin

European Board Certified ENT Doctor In Dubai

Dr. Peter Baptista Jardin is an ENT specialist with a special interest in treating sleep apnea. He is a revered expert in Spain for performing the first ever robotic transoral surgery in 2011, and the only series of hypoglossal nerve stimulation proved revolutionary for obstructive sleep apnea treatment worldwide. He currently serves as an ENT doctor in Dubai’s Al Zahra Hospital.