Skip to main content

Is it strep throat or a cold?

A sore throat can be the first sign of several illnesses, ranging from the common cold to strep throat. If you or your child is suffering from a sore throat, you want to know whether it will simply take time to run its course as a cold or if it is one of the strep throat symptoms that will only get worse. Here’s how to decide whether you need to medical attention for your sore throat.

Sore Throat and Other Symptoms

A sore throat caused by a cold generally will last only a day or two and be followed by other cold symptoms, such as nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, headache and fever.

A strep throat symptom is a more severe sore throat which is sudden and persistent. Other strep throat symptoms accompanying the sore throat may include painful swallowing, loss of appetite, fever, headache, swollen neck glands, muffled voice and belly pain. These symptoms are commonly treated with antibiotics.

Viral or Bacterial Infection

A sore throat can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. If a virus is the cause, you cannot be treated with antibiotics. To speed up your healing, get plenty of rest, eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink lots of fluids.

Strep throat is caused by the bacterium streptococcus. Strep throat is common between ages 5 and 13, though it can also occur in adults. These infections occur most often during the school year when big groups of kids and teens are in close quarters.

When to See a Doctor

If you have any of the strep throat symptoms listed above, we recommend you visit CareNow®, where you will be tested for strep. This is a quick, painless process that involves swabbing the back of your throat. If the rapid test is negative, a culture can be sent out to confirm the negative test result. If you test positive, you will be prescribed antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. It’s essential that you take all your prescribed medications, even if the symptoms subside.