Pharyngitis and Tonsillitis | Diagnosis & Treatment

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 group A beta-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS), because it will require antibiotic treatment to help prevent the complications associated with these bacteria.

As a result, when children have the symptoms associated with strep, they 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

What are the treatment options for pharyngitis and tonsillitis?

Treatment for infections in the throat may include:

  • acetaminophen (for pain)
  • increased fluid intake
  • throat lozenges
  • antibiotics (if the cause of the infection is bacterial, not viral)

If bacteria are not causing the infection, then the treatment is focused on comfort for your child. Antibiotics will not help treat viral sore throats.