Cold Home > Sore Throat Symptoms

Because a sore throat is a symptom by itself, it's important to look at other possible symptoms to determine what type of sore throat you have. For example, if a person has a sore throat, runny nose, and a low-grade fever, it is likely that the throat infection is caused by a virus. In some cases, however, a sore throat may be the result of a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, which has different symptoms than a viral infection.

An Overview of Sore Throat Signs or Symptoms

A sore throat is a symptom in and of itself. It can be caused by a number of conditions, the most common being an infection with either a virus or bacteria (see Sore Throat Causes).
The specific symptoms a person has will depend on several factors, including the sore throat cause.

Illnesses and Symptoms of Sore Throat

There are several different types of infections that can cause a sore throat. Let's look at three examples that show how different germs can cause different symptoms. We'll look at:
Viral Infection
Viral infections are the most common cause of a sore throat. In some cases, a person's only symptom might be a sore throat (viral pharyngitis).
Other times, the infection might cause other symptoms. This is because the same viruses that cause viral pharyngitis also cause upper respiratory infections, like the common cold, flu, or sinus infections (sinusitis).
Some clues that a sore throat might be from a virus include:
  • A cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Irritation of the eyes (conjunctivitis or pink eye)
  • Hoarseness
  • Sneezing
  • Low-grade fever -- lower than 101ºF (38.3ºC)
  • Mild body aches
  • Mild headaches
  • Swelling of the lymph glands in the neck.
Strep Throat
Strep throat is the most common bacterial cause of a sore throat. Its symptoms differ from those of a viral infection. Besides a sore throat, possible signs or symptoms of strep throat can include:
  • A fever above 101ºF (38.3ºC)
  • Red and enlarged tonsils
  • Tender or swollen lymph glands in the neck
  • No other signs of a viral infection (such as a cough, runny nose, or irritation of the eyes).
(Click Strep Throat Symptoms for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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