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Do I Have Strep or Just a Sore Throat?

Do I Have Strep or Just a Sore Throat?

Strep throat has joined the flu in news headlines, with schools nationwide reporting widespread cases of both illnesses. So, you wake up with a sore throat. Is it from a night of “sawing logs,” a symptom of a cold or allergies, or worse -- strep throat?

For kids, the odds that it’s strep throat is a lot higher than adults. It’s most common in children ages 5-15 years old. But, parents of school-aged children or adults who are around children frequently (hello, teachers!) are at increased risk for strep throat.

A sore throat caused by a cold or other virus tends to develop over a few days and is typically accompanied by a runny nose, postnasal drip, cough, and a low-grade fever or no fever at all. It has to run its course – antibiotics won’t help!

When you see a sore throat come on more suddenly, accompanied by difficulty swallowing, red and swollen tonsils, high fever and a headache, you’re likely dealing with strep throat - group A Streptococcus bacteria, to be exact. Other, less common symptoms of strep throat are nausea, rash, and even a headache and nausea, with no sore throat.

A simple swab of the throat can determine if strep is the culprit. Strep throat needs to be treated with antibiotics. If untreated, it can lead to sinusitis, tonsillitis, ear infections, and abscesses in the throat. It can also lead to more serious complications like rheumatic fever and inflammation of the kidneys.

Once on antibiotics, you should start feeling better with a day or two. You should stay home until you are fever-free and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Strep easily spreads when infected people cough or sneeze, so good hygiene -- washing hands, covering your mouth and nose -- is the key to prevention.

Tarisha Mixon

Tarisha Mixon, MD
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Medical Associates of Baton Rouge

Phone: (225) 387-0851

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