Wintertime brings cold temperatures, holidays, and snow. It opens up all sorts of possibilities to play outside and enjoy winter sports. But exposure to the elements also increases your risk of catching a cold, the flu, or even strep throat. This is because people are coming in from the cold outdoors and breathing stuffy, recirculated air indoors. This provides ample opportunity for the sharing of infectious illnesses.
Whether you catch a cold, the flu, or strep, these contagious conditions all share a common symptom: a sore throat. While sore throats have many different causes and are quite common, at times they can seem to linger on and on. What follows are tips on how to tell if your sore throat is actually strep and will require a doctor’s visit.
Signs & Symptoms of Sore Throat
In addition to the discomfort of a sore throat, a scratchy feeling or swelling at the back of the throat may occur. You may also have other cold symptoms such as an earache, runny nose, nasal congestion, or coughing. The glands in your neck may be swollen, and you may even develop signs of a rash.
Treating a sore throat that can accompany a cold is simple: gargle with warm salt water. Mixing a teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water should do the trick. In addition, warm drinks such as tea or chicken broth can bring immediate relief for a sore throat, as can sucking on lozenges or using throat sprays containing phenol.
If your symptoms are more severe and include body aches, it may mean you have the flu, in which case over-the-counter painkillers may be needed to alleviate the discomfort of your sore throat.
Signs & Symptoms of Strep Throat
If a sore throat doesn’t seem to get better after a few days, or if it frequently recurs, then strep throat may be the culprit.
Strep throat shares many symptoms with a sore throat than can accompany a cold or the flu – but there are differences, too.
In cases of strep throat, white patches appear at the back of the throat. If the tonsil area appears red and inflamed but has distinct patches of white, it is likely you have strep. Small, reddish patches that appear on the roof of the mouth toward the rear are another sign of strep. A sore throat alone – without any of the other symptoms of a cold or flu – may also indicate strep throat.
Rheumatic fever, an extreme rash, an earache or ear infection, and increasing difficulty swallowing or breathing are all signs that a sore throat has progressed beyond being a simple inconvenience and may require medical attention.
The only accurate way to determine if you indeed have strep throat requires a visit to the doctor. But because it may take a while to get an appointment to see your primary care physician, you may want to consider a trip to a nearby urgent care clinic.
A medical provider tests for strep by taking a quick swab at the back of the throat. This culture is tested for the presence of antigens that belong to the bacterial strain Streptococcus A. But even if it is strep, don’t panic. A quick cycle of antibiotics will cure it right up.
The Dangers of Strep Throat
While strep throat is not life-threatening and is relatively easy to treat, it is extremely contagious. Left untreated, strep throat can mutate and develop a resistance to antibiotics, making it much more difficult to treat.
Strep most often occurs in school-age children with symptoms like a sore throat, headaches, and stomachaches. Some children may develop high fevers and vomit. Making sure children avoid sharing utensils or drinks can help prevent the spread of strep. Practicing good hygiene and getting adequate vitamin C can help bolster the body’s defenses against strep. If your child has strep throat, it is important to keep him or her home from school until they’ve had a full 24 hours on antibiotics.
If you think your child has strep and want to get it treated quickly call (267) 202-6433 or, check in online. Don’t wait in long emergency room lines. Instead, seek immediate medical attention from the professionals at Patient Care Now Urgent Care and be seen quickly by a team of elite medical professionals