Strep throat and the flu can have similar symptoms, but they are very different illnesses. Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes a sore throat, fever, and headache. The flu can cause similar symptoms, but it’s caused by a virus and can be more severe.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and sinuses caused by group A streptococcus. It’s usually seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. The most common symptoms of strep throat are:
- Sore throat
- Sore glands, usually in the neck and armpits
- Fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or above for three days or more
- Runny nose, sneezing, and coughing
Other symptoms can include a stuffy nose and sore gums due to inflammation of the lining of the nose and mouth. Swollen tonsils are more common in adults than children; children tend to have swollen glands in their necks rather than swollen tonsils.
The flu is an illness that’s caused by a virus. It causes symptoms like fever, chills, and headaches. The flu can also lead to more severe illnesses like pneumonia. People usually get the flu from exposure to someone else who has it or from touching objects contaminated with infected droplets.
Symptoms of the flu include fever between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit that can last for four to six days. Headache is also common. It may come and go and worsen with activity, coughing, or deep breathing. Headache can also occur with neck stiffness, sore throat or earache, sinus pain, or pain behind the eye that may spread down into the cheek area.
Another flu symptom is an upset stomach or nausea that lasts longer than 24 hours or returns after it has gone away for several days. Sore throat with mucus drainage from the nose or throat (pharyngitis) may be present along with throat redness and swelling.
How to Tell Them Apart
It can be difficult to tell the flu and strep throat apart without a visit to the doctor. A doctor will do a strep screen or a strep culture. If strep throat is found to be the cause of your symptoms, you will likely be prescribed antibiotics to clear up the infection. If you have the flu, you may be given a prescription for an antiviral medication. In most cases, strep throat lasts a week to 10 days and the flu around five days.
Strep throat and the flu have some similar symptoms, but they are actually caused by different things. If you or one of your family members is exhibiting symptoms of strep throat or the flu, consider scheduling a telehealth appointment with WFMC Health for treatment options.