Is It a Sore Throat or Strep?

The two most common reasons for a sore throat are an infection with either a virus (the most common) or bacteria. If you have a sore throat, you may wonder, "Is it just a sore throat -- or is it strep?"
In some cases, a person's only symptom might be a sore throat (viral pharyngitis, or a viral sore throat). 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.


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 a strep throat can include:
  • A fever above 101ºF (38.3ºC)
  • Red and enlarged tonsils
  • Tender or swollen lymph glands in the neck.
(Click Sore Throat Symptoms for a closer look at the difference between a viral sore throat and strep. This article also outlines possible symptoms of viral and bacterial infections in infants.)
5 Tips to Keep a Cold at Bay
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