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Sore Throat

A sore throat is a symptom, not a disease. Pharyngitis is a common term that is interchanged with sore throat. A sore throat may be the result of a bacterial or viral infection or it may be the result of irritation caused by smoking, excessive loud talking, overly dry heated rooms during the winter, or the result of secretions from the nose, sinuses, eyes and ears draining down the throat in association with a cold or allergy. A sore throat can be a symptom of other infections that may be going on. These could include the common cold, sinus infection, ear infection, dental infection, or infectious mononucleosis.

Only 10% of sore throats are due to bacteria; the remaining 90% are the result of viral infections. Sore throats due to irritation or viral infection cannot be successfully treated with penicillin or other antibiotics. A bacterial infection may be suspected by the practitioner, but a throat culture is required to confirm the diagnosis. Throat culture tests require 24 - 48 hours before results are available. The Group A Beta hemolytic Streptococcus is only one cause of a bacterial infection - other bacterial infections may occur as well. If the throat culture should grow Group A Strep, treatment with an antibiotic is indicated, primarily to prevent heart and kidney complications. If your practitioner prescribes an antibiotic, it is important that you take the medication until it is gone to prevent these complications.


If a throat culture was taken and the results indicate you need antibiotic treatment, you will be notified by a McKinley provider. If your sore throat has not resolved in seven days or it gets worse you should call and see if you should be seen again.

If you are a registered University of Illinois student and you have questions or concerns,
or need to make an appointment, please call: Dial-A-Nurse at 333-2700


If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and the information in this handout,

you are advised to contact your health care provider.


Visit the McKinley Health Center Web site at:

HEd. II-001

The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2007.



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