A common misconception is that all sore throats are due to strep, and antibiotics are always necessary. Countless trips have been made to the emergency room, urgent care or doctor’s office, only to be bluntly told that “it is only a cold and nothing can be done.” How, then, can a savvy individual save time and money on medical care when he/she or a loved one has the symptoms of a sore throat?
Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by the streptococcus species, and is spread by either direct contact or from respiratory droplets of an infected individual. It is one of a number of causes of sore throat, which also include viruses (such as the common cold and mononucleosis), post-nasal drip (usually due to sinus infection or allergies), acid reflux and smoking.
Strep throat is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15, although adults can also be infected. Diagnosis of strep is likely if at least three out of four symptoms are present: fever of 100.4F or greater, exudates (pus pockets) on the back of the throat, swollen glands in the neck and/or headache. Strep is unlikely if there are other symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, body aches and/or cough.
Diagnosis of strep throat is confirmed by a rapid strep swab of the throat or a blood test. Antibiotics are prescribed to shorten the duration of the infection and prevent complications including heart and kidney damage. Patients are infectious before and up to 24 hours after antibiotic treatment is started.
Don’t delay medical evaluation and treatment today if you believe that you or a loved one has the signs and symptoms of strep throat. You may wish to review other helpful articles on common illnesses that occur this time of year including When to Go to a Doctor for a Sinus Infection and When to See Your Doctor for a Cough. Call our office at 208-772-5204 and make an appointment if you need help battling a common wintertime illness.
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