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Sore throat = Strep throat… Or does it????

sore-throatIf you are wondering whether your painful sore throat is from a cold, allergies or strep here is help with how to tell the difference.

Sore throats can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The most common cause of sore throats are viruses. Viral sore throats are often accompanied by other cold symptoms that may include a runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes and sneezing. Other causes of sore throats include smoking, pollution or irritants in the air, allergies and dry air.

A sore throat is often the first sign of a cold or allergy congestion. Often a sore throat from a cold will get better or go away after the first two or three days.

Strep throat, which is an infection due to streptococcus bacteria, is another cause of a sore throat. With strep throat the soreness in the throat is often more severe and persists.  In general the common symptoms of strep throat include a sore throat, fever, red and inflamed throat and swollen or tender lymph nodes on the sides of the upper neck.

People with strep throat can experience other associated symptoms including headache, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, and a loss of appetite.

Over the counter cold medications including acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to relieve the pain of a sore throat. Lozenges and throat sprays may also soothe your throat and numb the pain temporarily.  Drinking warm liquids, gargling with warm salt water or sucking on ice chips may also relieve some of the discomfort. Antibiotics should not be used to treat a sore throat associated with a cold or virus. Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria. They will not resolve sore throats associated with colds which are caused by viruses.

Remember, if you have sore throat pain and have concern about a cold or strep throat follow up with your healthcare provider today.