It's that time of year when strep throat signs and symptoms start coming up. During these times, you may not have a voice, be irritable, have trouble swallowing and feel sick as well as have other symptoms. When this happens, it’s common to think you either have a sore throat or strep throat, but how can you tell the difference between the two? The signs and symptoms of the two can be very similar, but there are significant differences, especially on how contagious your symptoms are and how to treat the problem.
What’s the Difference Between Strep Throat and a Sore Throat?
A sore throat is a term for experiencing tenderness, scratchiness and pain in your throat. It is a term that is used when you are having difficulty swallowing and you may have a fever or feel like you are getting sick. Sore throats can be caused by fungi, viruses and other types of organisms. Sore throats are much less contagious than strep throat, but it is a viral infection, so you should still use precautions to avoid transmitting the virus. A sore throat will generally get better on its own without medical treatment.
Strep throat is a type of sore throat that is primarily caused by bacteria known as the streptococcus bacteria. Unlike a sore throat, strep throat is highly contagious and can quickly spread because it is an airborne condition. Strep throat can be spread through contact with chairs, telephones, door knobs and a vast array of other things, including being in close vicinity of others who are infected with the bacteria, primarily through coughing or sneezing. Strep throat, unlike a sore throat that heals itself, must be treated with antibiotics.
Signs and Symptoms of Strep Throat
If you are experiencing other symptoms that are generally related to a cold, such as a cough, runny nose and fatigue, you are probably suffering from a sore throat. The symptoms of strep throat are much more serious and typically include:
- Swollen, red tonsils that usually have white patches on them (white patches on the tonsils are one of the primary differences between the two illnesses)
- Extreme pain when swallowing
- High fever-generally 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Swollen glands along the front of the neck
- Young children with strep throat may also experience an upset stomach and/or vomiting
If you are experiencing the symptoms of strep throat, you should see a medical professional as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor will test for strep throat by swabbing the back of your throat and they can typically test the sample right in their office and give you same-day results. If you test positive for strep throat, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection. The best way to prevent the spread of strep throat causing bacteria is with frequent hand washing. You shouldn't drink after anyone, do not share eating utensils and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
If you suspect you may have strep throat, stop by PrimeCare Urgent Care for testing as soon as possible.
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