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How to Tell the Difference Between Strep vs. Sore Throat

So, you wake up one morning and your throat (or worse, your child’s throat) is itchy, inflamed, and irritated.

It’s a sore throat. Or is it?

Symptoms of a sore throat (a.k.a. pharyngitis) can just as easily be the beginnings of something more serious: strep throat. Let’s take a look at the signs.

Sore Throat Symptoms

A sore throat can be caused by allergens (like pollen and dust) or bacteria. The most common culprits, however, are cold and flu-causing viruses.

Symptoms include:

  • A swollen, scratchy throat
  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Rash
  • Lump on Neck
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Congestion

Strep Throat Symptoms

The symptoms of a regular sore throat and strep throat are very similar, but in general strep throat has:

  • White patches on the tonsils or back of the throat
  • Just a sore throat WITHOUT cough/cold symptoms like a runny nose or congestion

If these symptoms last more than two days, you might have strep. Don’t panic! Only rarely does it demand emergency attention. Fortunately, strep throat is just the type of ailment that can be diagnosed and treated at Piedmont Minor Emergency Clinic—just check-in online or walk in at your convenience.

Diagnosis & Treatment for Strep Throat

Our Providers can perform a quick strep test to look for antigens (indicator molecules) belonging to the bacterial strain Streptococcus A.

If negative…

You’re not out of the woods yet. The rapid strep test is good, but not perfect: about 15% of people with strep throat may have a negative test result.  If your provider still suspects strep throat, he or she can conduct a throat culture. Results may take 1-2 days to return. If you have just a sore throat, but sure to treat it either with a few home remedies or contact your local urgent care for a prescription to comfort you and get you through it.

If positive…

Sorry! You have strep throat. You will most likely be prescribed antibiotics and feel better in approximately 48 hours. However, it is important that you complete your full course as prescribed, not just stopping when your symptoms subside! If you don’t, you allow the bacteria that remain in your system to mutate and become more resistant to antibiotics.

You may also consider taking ibuprofen (such as Advil) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce throat pain and fever symptoms.

Remember: Strep is very contagious. Don’t risk infecting your friends & family and get treated now!

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