Sore Throat or Strep Throat? How to Tell the Difference

It is important to determine if your infection is caused by strep, as antibiotics are prescribed to decrease the chance of complications. Potential complications of untreated strep throat infection include middle ear infection (otitis media) , sinus infection (sinusitis), pneumonia, meningitis, kidney disease, and rheumatic fever. Of these, rheumatic fever and kidney disease are of most concern.

What is Strep Throat?

Children between the ages of 5 and 15 years have the highest incidence of strep throat.

Strep throat (also called streptococcal sore throat) is an bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils caused by a Streptococcal bacteria. Typical symptoms are sore throat, chills, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Strep throat is cured by antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, strep throat can cause serious heart and kidney complications. Strep throat is contagious. It is spread by close contact with an infected person, usually by inhaling airborne droplets from an infected person.

What is the Common Sore Throat?

The majority of sore throats are caused by viruses, most commonly a cold or flu virus. A viral sore throat will usually get better by itself, and has a low likelihood of complications. Antibiotics do not get rid of sore throats caused by the common cold. The common cold is caused by a virus, and antibiotics will not help.

Some symptoms of the common sore throat includes:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Low fever

 

Signs & Symptoms of Strep Throat

Symptoms of strep throat develop one to four days after exposure to the bacteria via airborne droplets or by direct contact with an infected person.

The most characteristic symptoms of strep throat are sore throat and painful swallowing. Other symptoms include:

  • Chills and fever
  • Swollen and tender glands (lymph nodes) on the sides of the neck
  • Red and swollen appearance inside the throat
  • Pus-like white or yellow patches or spots may be visible on the back of the throat and on the tonsils
  • Headache, nausea and vomiting may also be present
  • Dark red splotches or spots on the roof of the mouth, and
  • Skin rash

Some people will develop a red skin rash that feels rough to the touch. A strep throat infection accompanied by this distinctive rash is known as scarlet fever. The rash is caused by toxins produced by the streptococcus pyogenes bacterium.

Potential complications of untreated strep throat infection include middle ear infection (otitis media) , sinus infection (sinusitis), pneumonia, meningitis, kidney disease, and rheumatic fever. Of these, rheumatic fever and kidney disease are of most concern.

Although these signs may indicate strep throat, a visit to the doctor is necessary to make a full determination. Strep throat cannot be diagnosed by visual signs alone.

Strep Throat Treatment & Prevention

Because of the potential for serious complications, strep throat should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.

An important part of managing a strep throat infection is to prevent its spread to other people. Simple steps to help prevent the spread of strep throat include:

  • Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Frequent and thorough washing and drying of hands
  • Avoiding close physical contact
  • Not sharing food, liquids, or eating or drinking utensils with an infected person
  • If strep throat is confirmed, staying home for 24 hours after starting antibiotic therapy

 

References:
https://www.southerncross.co.nz/group/medical-library/strep-throat-causes-symptoms-treatment
http://www.onhealth.com/content/1/sore_throat_strep_throat

 

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