Testing & Diagnosis for Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis in Children

What are the symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

The symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis depend greatly on the cause of the infection and the person affected. For some children, the onset of symptoms may be quick; for others, symptom onset is slow. There are several common symptoms of pharyngitis and tonsillitis, but each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • sore throat
  • fever (either low grade or high)
  • headache
  • decrease in appetite
  • not feeling well
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach aches
  • painful swallowing
  • visual redness or drainage in the throat

How are pharyngitis and tonsillitis diagnosed?

In most cases, it is hard to distinguish between a viral sore throat and a strep throat based on a physical examination. It is very important to know if the sore throat is "strep" (caused by GABHS), because it will require antibiotic treatment to help prevent the complications associated with these bacteria.

As a result, most children, when they have the above symptoms, will receive a strep test and throat culture to determine if the infection is caused by GABHS. This usually involves a throat swab (called quick tests or rapid strep tests) in the physician's office.

This may immediately become positive for GABHS and antibiotics will be started. If it is negative, part of the throat swab will be kept for a throat culture. This will further identify, in two to three days, if there is any GABHS present. Your child's physician will decide the treatment plan based on the findings.