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Getting a sore throat can be a real hassle – not only are they painful, they can cause major disruptions to your life if you need to take time off work. But when is a common sore throat something more serious – something that needs medical attention to resolve? In this blog, Dr Ted Smith explains the difference between a sore throat and tonsillitis.

Sore throat

The more common of the two conditions, a sore throat is a symptom of a viral infection. Whilst painful, sore throats are often able to be soothed with lozenges and painkillers, and don’t usually last more than a few days. Sore throats often go hand in hand with viral infections, like the common cold. A regular sore throat might also be accompanied by a headache, runny nose, and a mild headache.

Just like a cold, a sore throat shouldn’t last more than a few days. If symptoms persist, or the pain is becoming unmanageable, speak to your general practitioner.


Unlike a common sore throat, tonsillitis is a severe infection of the tonsils that stems from bacteria or a virus. Sufferers may experience extreme pain in their throat, as well as having difficulty swallowing. Accompanied by this pain will be a fever, bad breath, and snoring (or a worsening of snoring if the person already snores).

Sore throats will generally ease overnight or over a few days; tonsillitis will require the prescription of antibiotics to shake. Often tonsillitis will be a recurring condition, causing disruptions to the life of the person suffering, as well as their caregiver – as it largely affects children, parents and guardians must take time off work to care for their kids.

If tonsillitis is happening to you or your child frequently, your local GP might refer you to a specialist ENT (ear, nose, and throat) clinic for assessment. Oftentimes, the solution for severe and recurring tonsillitis is a tonsillectomy – surgical removal of the tonsils. The effects of this procedure remove the possibility of future infections.

Make an appointment with Dr Ted Smith

If you or your child are experiencing frequent and extreme sore throats, you should consult with Dr Ted Smith to get your condition diagnosed. You might be suffering from tonsillitis, or another condition that an ENT specialist can identify and form a treatment plan for. Please get in touch with us by calling (02) 9525 3500 or send an email to

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