Everyone gets sick at one point or another in their life, especially when the seasons change. One common ailment at this time is sore throats. Sore throats can occur for many reasons such as allergies or a cold but in some cases they can be a throat infection caused by bacteria or a virus. Following are some signs of infection to look out for if you have a sore throat.

It Lasts Longer Than a Week

While sore throats are normal to some extent, if your sore throat has lasted longer than one week you should make an appointment with your ear nose throat doctor. A sore throat lasting longer than one week can be a sign of a serious throat infection such as Streptococcus pyogenes which is known to cause strep throat.

You Have Difficulty Swallowing or Breathing

In some cases, throat infections can cause swelling that results in difficulty swallowing or breathing. In this case you should seek professional care immediately.

Fever over 101 F

Young woman taking her temperature.

A fever is a very common but serious sign of infection. When our body is trying to fight off bacteria or a virus it heats up in an attempt to kill the problem. If you have a sore throat and a fever you should contact your ENT doctor for an appointment. Your ear nose throat doctor will be able to see and test for infections and prescribe medication if necessary.

Types of Throat Infections

The two main types of throat infections are strep throat and tonsillitis. Streptococcus bacteria can cause both of these infections but each infection has different symptoms.

Strep Throat

Strep throat can manifest in many ways but most commonly it appears as a sore throat. Strep throat symptoms include pain when swallowing, fever, rash, swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes. Strep throat can also cause a rash known as Scarlet fever in some individuals.


Tonsillitis can be cause by a virus or by bacteria. The main job of the tonsils is to fight infection but this does not make them immune to infection. When the tonsils become infected it results in a sore throat that is extremely painful. Signs of tonsillitis include fever, swelling, voice changes, and swollen lymph nodes in addition to painful swallowing.

When to See a Specialist

An ENT doctor specializes in illness and other issues in the ears, nose, and throat. When you visit the ENT doctor due to a sore throat the doctor will look in your mouth and throat with a light and will likely swab your throat to test for streptococcus pyogenes. Should your doctor conclude that the throat infection is a result of bacteria you will be prescribed an antibiotic such as amoxicillin or penicillin. If your sore throat is due to a viral infection you will be advised to stay hydrated, eat foods that are gentle on your throat such as ice cream, gelatin, and mashed potatoes, and get lots of rest.

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