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Tonsillitis vs Strep Throat

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Tonsillitis vs Strep Throat

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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October 23, 2018 Read Time - 3 minutes

Tonsillitis vs Strep Throat

While tonsillitis and strep throat share a lot of the same symptoms, they are not the same.

Tonsillitis can be caused by several types of viruses and bacterial infections, including the bacteria that cause strep throat.

Strep throat is only caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria and never by another virus or bacteria.

In other words, strep throat can cause tonsillitis, but not all cases of tonsillitis are strep throat.

Read on to learn more about tonsillitis vs strep throat.

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What is Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils.

The tonsils are masses of tissue in the back of the throat. They are the body’s first line of defense to harmful viruses and bacteria entering the body through the mouth. This makes them prone to infection by many different types of bacteria and viruses.

Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are most at risk of contracting tonsillitis.

Types of Tonsillitis

One of the main differences between strep throat and tonsillitis is that there are different types of tonsillitis.

Viral tonsillitis is the most common type of tonsillitis.

It is typically less serious and in many cases goes away on its own.

The same virus that causes the common cold can cause tonsillitis. It usually takes the immune system 2 days to reduce symptoms and about 7 to 10 days to completely fight off the infection.

If after 2 days you do not see improved and reduced symptoms see your doctor for an official diagnosis. You may be prescribed antiviral medication
or you may be suffering from bacterial tonsillitis.

Bacterial Tonsillitis causes an estimated 15% to 30% of tonsillitis cases, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. While it is less common it is usually more serious.

Bacterial tonsillitis does not typically go away on it’s own. You will need to see your doctor for an official diagnosis and will likely get an antibiotic prescription.

You should start to feel symptom relief in roughly 3 days and be better in 7 to 10 days. Continue to take your antibiotic for the full amount of prescribed days even if you feel better.

What is Strep Throat?

Strep Throat is often more serious than tonsillitis. As mentioned before group A Streptococcus bacteria causes it.

Strep Throat is an infection of the throat, but it can infect the tonsils as well.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis vs Strep Throat

While tonsillitis and strep throat are different, they share a lot of the same symptoms. This is because the infectios are in close proximity and afflict the same areas, even if the causes of infection vary.

Symptoms of Tonsillitis:

Symptoms of Strep Throat:

  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • Sore throat
  • Red spots on the roof of the mouth
  • Difficulty and pain swallowing
  • High fever
  • Body aches
  • Swollen, red tonsils with white streaks of pus

It is important to see a doctor if your symptoms last for more than 2 days or rapidly worsen. Additionally, if you have a high fever of 103 degrees you should seek immediate medical attention.

If you think you have tonsillitis or strep throat book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a precription online today.

Read more about tonsillitis and strep throat


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information. Strep Throat. Accessed on September 3, 2020. Strep Throat: All You Need to Know. Accessed on September 3, 2020. Strep Throat. Accessed on February 14, 2021.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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