Strep Throat vs. Tonsillitis: Understanding the Differences

A female doctor examines a female patient’s throat using a tongue depressor in a doctor’s office.

Dealing with a sore throat and discomfort in your throat area can lead to confusion about whether you’re facing a simple sore throat or something more serious such as strep throat or tonsillitis. 

These two conditions share similarities in symptoms but have different root causes and treatment approaches. 

In this blog, we’ll help you differentiate between strep throat and tonsillitis, shedding light on their key differences and the specialized care you can find at Oxford Urgent Care for either condition.

Continue reading to learn more.

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria that inflames the throat and tonsils. 

It’s characterized by a sudden and severe sore throat and pain while swallowing and is often accompanied by fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. 

Strep throat can affect people of all ages and requires a rapid strep test or throat culture to confirm the presence of streptococcal bacteria and guide appropriate treatment, usually involving antibiotics.

What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is the inflammation of the tonsils, two small masses of tissue located at the back of the throat. 

Unlike strep throat, it can be caused by viruses or bacteria, often leading to symptoms like sore throat, difficulty swallowing, swollen tonsils, and sometimes fever. 

Tonsillitis is more common in children but can affect people of all ages.

The Difference Between Strep Throat and Tonsillitis

While strep throat and tonsillitis manifest with moderate to severe sore throat and similar symptoms, their underlying causes differ.

Strep throat is caused explicitly by the Streptococcus bacteria, while tonsillitis can result from various factors, including bacterial or viral infections. 

It is essential to know that tonsillitis can be caused by strep throat but not all cases of tonsillitis are due to streptococcal infection.

Proper diagnosis is crucial to determine the appropriate treatment.

Tonsil Stones vs. Strep Patches 

Tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths, are small, hardened masses that can form in the crevices of the tonsils. They often cause discomfort and bad breath. 

Strep patches, on the other hand, are whitish patches that may appear on the throat and tonsils due to the presence of strep throat. 

Telling these apart is essential, as one requires medical attention while the other may necessitate medical removal to eliminate symptoms.

Strep Throat and Tonsillitis Treatment Differences

When it comes to treatment, tonsillitis vs. strep throat are cared for differently.

Strep throat requires antibiotics to clear the infection and prevent complications. 

Tonsillitis treatment varies based on the cause. Bacterial tonsillitis may require antibiotics, while viral tonsillitis is managed with rest, fluids, and pain relief. 

Chronic or recurrent tonsillitis might lead to considering tonsillectomy (tonsil removal) as a treatment option.

Visit Oxford Urgent Care for Strep Throat or Tonsillitis 

If you or a loved one are experiencing strep throat or tonsillitis symptoms, seeking prompt medical care is crucial to your overall health and well-being. 

Oxford Urgent Care offers specialized evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for both throat-related conditions. 

Our experienced medical team can accurately diagnose your symptoms, recommend appropriate treatments, and ensure you receive the care you need now.

Unsure what your sore throat could be? Get a strep test and personalized diagnosis today. We are open seven days a week with no appointments ever necessary.