ZocdocAnswersDoes a sore throat turn into strep throat or are they two different things?

Question

Does a sore throat turn into strep throat or are they two different things?

If you have a sore throat from a cold or the flu, can it turn into strep throat? Does it progress like this? Or are they two different diseases/viruses.

Answer

Both cold or flu viruses and the streptococcal bacterium can cause sore throat. The two conditions are unrelated to each other - for example cold/flu are caused by viruses and strep throat is a bacterial infection - and actually have some distinguishing symptoms which can help your doctor figure out which one you are suffering from. The sore throat that occurs from a cold or the flu usually occurs in the setting of other cold symptoms, such as cough, congestion, and runny nose. It tends to get better on its own over a few days and does not require any specific treatment. The sore throat from strep throat on the other hand tends to be more severe than the sore throat from a viral infection. Furthermore, there generally is not a lot of cough or runny nose, and the glands in the neck tend to be more swollen. If you think you might have a strep throat infection it is important to go see your doctor, who can perform a test to look for the strep bacterium. If discovered, you will need treatment with antibiotics to get rid of the infection (cold and flu on the other hand do not require antibiotics).

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