Sore throats are painful nuisances that are usually not serious issues. After a few days of pain and discomfort, the condition resolves, and we move on. However, the signs and symptoms of a sore throat can be signs of a more serious infection: strep throat. Unlike a sore throat, strep throat is contagious and may lead to severe complications. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish between strep throat and sore throat without a medical test.
Usually, sore throat is the result of a viral infection that causes inflammation in the area of the throat just behind the tonsils -- the pharynx. Because it is a viral infection, a sore throat may be the first symptom of minor issues such as influenza, or it may be a sign of an oncoming severe illness. The viruses that most commonly cause sore throat are influenza and rhinovirus. A sore throat usually progresses into illnesses such as strep throat when a bacterial infection is responsible.
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