Young woman with hand over throat experiencing symptoms and wondering about oral gonorrhea vs. strep throat

Oral Gonorrhea vs. Strep Throat: What to Know

Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Oral gonorrhea and strep throat are two conditions that impact the throat and mouth, both of which can be treated with antibiotics.[1,2] Since recovering from either requires limiting your contact with other people, it’s important to get a throat culture swab, an accurate diagnosis, and the appropriate treatment.

If you’re wondering whether you’ve developed strep throat or oral gonorrhea, the best way to tell is to take a sexually transmitted infection (STI) test either through a visit to a healthcare provider or with an at-home sample collection kit. In the meantime, the following article will cover how an oral gonorrhea infection and strep throat symptoms differ and what to do if you have either type of throat infection.

What Is Oral Gonorrhea?

As one of the most common STIs, people may be more familiar with genital gonorrhea. This type of gonorrhea is transmitted through penetrative sex, and tends to impact the reproductive organs most acutely.

Oral gonorrhea, on the other hand, is contracted by performing oral sex on an infected person’s [3]:

  • Penis
  • Vagina
  • Urethra
  • Rectum

Both types of gonorrhea are curable, but you’ll need to secure an accurate diagnosis to treat them. Several other STIs may be contracted through oral sex, including [3]:

  • Chlamydia
  • Herpes
  • Syphilis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

It’s very common for a person to have gonorrhea without noticing any symptoms.[4] If you do experience symptoms of oral gonorrhea, you might observe:

  • Soreness of the throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • White clusters in the mouth

Because gonorrhea can present asymptomatically, regularly taking an STI test is one of the best ways for sexually active people to rule out the possibility of this throat infection.

What Is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is another type of bacterial infection, but it isn’t transmitted through oral or other types of sexual activity.[5]

Strep throat is most prevalent among young people—mostly children—and is transmitted through respiratory droplets.6 If you’ve been around an infected person, it’s possible to contract strep throat when they cough or sneeze.[5]

Strep Throat Symptoms

Many symptoms of oral gonorrhea overlap with strep throat.5 However, symptoms of strep throat tend to be more noticeable than those of gonorrhea. To that end, strep throat typically features symptoms like:

  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Red dots at the back of the mouth
  • White patches on the tonsils
  • Lowered appetite
  • Rapid onset of throat pain

How To Know If You Have Oral Gonorrhea vs. Strep Throat

If you’re worried you may have oral gonorrhea, it’s important to seek out a sexual health diagnosis at your earliest convenience. Left untreated, gonorrhea can spread to other areas of the body.[4]

This can lead to complications such as [2]:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB)
  • Chronic pelvic pain in women and people AFAB
  • Prostatitis in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB)
  • Female and male infertility
  • Elevated risk of contracting other STIs or infections, like HIV/Acquired
  • Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Pregnancy complications, like pregnancy loss and/or ectopic pregnancy

Fortunately, gonorrhea is highly curable and easily diagnosed with an STI test. You can get tested in person by providing a urine or tissue sample to a healthcare provider.

Private STD consultations

Alternatively, an at-home gonorrhea test can provide a diagnosis without the need to visit a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider if you’re unsure how to test for gonorrhea from home.

Oral Gonorrhea Treatment And Management

Oral gonorrhea is typically treated with a single round of the antibiotic ceftriaxone. A healthcare provider or telehealth professional can decide on the dosage and duration of your medication. In most cases, people find relief from symptoms within one week of starting their medication.[2]

To ensure you make a complete recovery, it’s important to [7]:

  • Take your antibiotics as prescribed – Following your healthcare provider’s prescription exactly will help prevent reinfection and antibiotic resistance if you’re reinfected.
  • Hold off on resuming sexual activity – If you’re unsure of how long you should wait to have oral or penetrative sex, reach out to a healthcare provider. They can give you an idea of when you can resume sexual activity to ensure you don’t pass the infection back and forth between partners.
  • Re-test in one to two weeks – It’s recommended you take a test-of-cure for oral gonorrhea 7 to 14 days following treatment to ensure your treatment was successful.

For more information on how to cure gonorrhea without going to see a healthcare provider, read our guide.

Strep Throat Treatment And Management

Strep throat, like oral gonorrhea, is highly responsive to antibiotics. Typically, you’ll start feeling better within two days of beginning treatment.[8]

If you’re experiencing symptoms like fever or throat soreness, over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers like ibuprofen are an excellent way to find relief until you start feeling better.

Screening For STIs Is Simpler With Everlywell

If you think you may be at risk of having an STI, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis as quickly as possible. With Everlywell, you can screen for individual STIs like gonorrhea conveniently at home.

From sexual health to general wellness, every Everlywell test is processed through CLIA-certified labs and comes with physician-reviewed results like the ones you’d receive from your healthcare provider. Everlywell can even link you to a vetted network of telehealth professionals who can evaluate and counsel you or provide STD treatment online.

Take a proactive approach to your sexual wellness by exploring the complete at-home test collection at Everlywell today.

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  1. Strep throat - Diagnosis and treatment. Mayo Clinic. Published 2018. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  2. Springer C, Salen P. Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea. PubMed. Published 2021. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  3. STD Risk and Oral Sex. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.. Published 2019. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  4. Detailed STD facts - gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 12, 2022. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  5. Strep throat - symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published 2018. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  6. Strep throat: All you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 6, 2023. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  7. Gonorrhea Treatment and Care. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.. Published 2018. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
  8. Is your sore throat strep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 6, 2023. URL. Accessed November 1, 2023.
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