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Throat Infections


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2023
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What are throat infections?

Throat infections can involve the whole back of your throat or just your tonsils. Tonsils are small lumps of tissue in the back of your throat. Tonsils help fight infection but sometimes get infected themselves. Infection of the tonsils is called tonsillitis.

What causes throat infections?

What are the symptoms of throat infections?

Common symptoms are:

  • A sore throat that's worse when you swallow or talk

  • A red throat and tonsils

  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck

Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped tissues that help your body fight infection. Some people mistakenly call them "glands" and talk about having "swollen glands" when their throat is sore.

Sometimes, you may also get:

  • Pain in your ears

  • Fever

  • White patches on your tonsils

  • Bad breath

How can doctors tell if I have a throat infection?

Doctors can tell if your throat is infected by looking in your throat and seeing that it's red. Sometimes they'll swab your throat and do a strep test, to see if strep throat Streptococcal Infections What are streptococcal infections? Streptococcus, simply called strep, is a common group of bacteria. Different types of strep cause different diseases. Most often they cause sore throat or... read more is causing the infection.

Big, red, swollen tonsils with white patches may or may not be caused by strep throat. All kinds of throat infections can look that way, not just strep.

How do doctors treat a throat infection?

Doctors treat throat infections with:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

  • Sometimes, corticosteroids to help the symptoms go away faster

  • Antibiotics, but only if you have a bacterial infection, such as strep throat

If you get severe tonsillitis from strep throat very often, your doctor may recommend surgery to take out your tonsils (tonsillectomy).

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
7T Gummy ES, Acephen, Aceta, Actamin, Adult Pain Relief, Anacin Aspirin Free, Aphen, Apra, Children's Acetaminophen, Children's Pain & Fever , Children's Pain Relief, Comtrex Sore Throat Relief, ED-APAP, ElixSure Fever/Pain, Feverall, Genapap, Genebs, Goody's Back & Body Pain, Infantaire, Infants' Acetaminophen, LIQUID PAIN RELIEF, Little Fevers, Little Remedies Infant Fever + Pain Reliever, Mapap, Mapap Arthritis Pain, Mapap Infants, Mapap Junior, M-PAP, Nortemp, Ofirmev, Pain & Fever , Pain and Fever , PAIN RELIEF , PAIN RELIEF Extra Strength, Panadol, PediaCare Children's Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, PediaCare Children's Smooth Metls Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, PediaCare Infant's Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, Pediaphen, PHARBETOL, Plus PHARMA, Q-Pap, Q-Pap Extra Strength, Silapap, Triaminic Fever Reducer and Pain Reliever, Triaminic Infant Fever Reducer and Pain Reliever, Tylenol, Tylenol 8 Hour, Tylenol 8 Hour Arthritis Pain, Tylenol 8 Hour Muscle Aches & Pain, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Children's, Tylenol Children's Pain+Fever, Tylenol CrushableTablet, Tylenol Extra Strength, Tylenol Infants', Tylenol Infants Pain + Fever, Tylenol Junior Strength, Tylenol Pain + Fever, Tylenol Regular Strength, Tylenol Sore Throat, XS No Aspirin, XS Pain Reliever
Advil, Advil Children's, Advil Children's Fever, Advil Infants', Advil Junior Strength, Advil Migraine, Caldolor, Children's Ibuprofen, ElixSure IB, Genpril , Ibren , IBU, Midol, Midol Cramps and Body Aches, Motrin, Motrin Children's, Motrin IB, Motrin Infants', Motrin Junior Strength, Motrin Migraine Pain, PediaCare Children's Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer IB, PediaCare Infants' Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer IB, Samson-8
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