Is it strep or just a sore throat?

Is it strep or just a sore throat?

It’s not always clear.

Is it time for you or your child to go to the doctor and get the dreaded strep test? You know the test – where they swab the back of your throat with a big Q-tip and make you gag.

“All of us routinely have the strep bacteria, group a streptococcus, in our mouths, nose and on our skin,”  says Dr. Shrinal Vyas, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “But when that bacteria travels to our throats and causes an infection, it can be extremely painful.”

So how can you tell if it is strep? Your throat:

  • Actually feels swollen
  • Is sore and so painful that it’s hard to swallow
  • Is so sore you actually drool a little

More serious symptoms are:

  • Sudden fever of more than 101 degrees
  • A red throat with white patches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite

So why is it important to test for strep?

“A sore throat is a viral infection,” says Dr. Vyas. “It will run its course with rest and time. Over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen or Tylenol can also help, along with gargling with warm salt water and throat lozenges for adults and older children. A strep throat, on the other hand, is a bacterial infection. It takes antibiotics to clear it.”

Dr. Vyas recommends seeing a doctor as soon as you suspect strep.

“If you or your child have any of the above symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as you can. The doctor will determine what the diagnosis is, and if it is strep, getting treated as early as possible will help you feel better and prevent the strep from spreading to other children, family and friends.”

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About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!