CareNow® - December 17, 2018

If you wake up with a sore throat, it’s not unusual to be worried that you’re getting sick with strep throat or even the flu.

But before you self-diagnose, it’s wise to first look at the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing.

Some sore throats are simply an irritation caused by everyday allergens like pollen or dust and won’t develop into anything more.

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What Causes a Sore Throat?

Woman touching her neck

Plenty of common irritants can cause a sore throat, and they don’t necessarily mean that you’re getting sick. These include:

  1. Dry air
  2. Heartburn
  3. Cigarette smoke
  4. Hay fever
  5. Heavily polluted air
  6. Swallowing sharp foods
  7. Breathing through your mouth at night
  8. Postnasal drip stemming from mucus draining from your sinuses into the back of your throat

If your sore throat is an indication of an illness, common complaints can include a moderate fever, earache, runny nose, swollen glands, difficulty breathing, congestion, moderate rash or cough.

Sore Throat With No Other Symptoms

Young man blowing nose outdoors

Sometimes the sore throat may be the only ailment. In this case, you’ll know in a day or so whether you’re catching the common cold or strep throat, or whether the sore throat is caused by an irritation or acid reflux.

Sore Throat Vs. Strep Throat

girl getting her throat checked

One of the most common questions is whether a sore throat with no other symptoms is strep, a bacterial infection. While symptoms of strep throat can be similar to that of an ordinary sore throat, the illness often includes these aliments:

  1. Ear infections
  2. Nausea or vomiting
  3. Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  4. White patches on the tonsils or back of the throat
  5. Tiny red dots that appear on the back of the roof of the mouth
  6. A sore throat without cold symptoms (such as a runny nose or congestion)

If any of these symptoms last for more than a couple of days, there is a chance that you have strep throat.

Be Sure To Get A Strep Test At CareNow® Urgent Care

Brave little girl opens wide for throat swab at doctor

Sore throat symptoms that don’t subside within two days should be evaluated by a doctor. During your visit, be sure to describe any other symptoms that you have, including sinus and chest congestion, a runny nose, or earache.

The doctor will likely ask about your symptoms, look at your throat and may test for strep by using a swab to gather a small sample of cells.

The result of the strep test is usually available within minutes—called a rapid strep test. While usually accurate for most patients, about 15 percent of those with strep throat may have a negative test result.

If your rapid strep test comes back negative but your doctor suspects you may have it, he or she can culture the sample, which produces results in one to two days.

How To Treat A Sore Throat?

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The good news is that sore throats can be treated, and managing the symptoms can help minimize pain. Try taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen, gargling with warm salt water, drinking warm liquids, using a humidifier, sucking on medicated throat lozenges or using a throat spray.

  • Virus. 

If the sore throat is caused by a virus, it will heal on its own within five to seven days. Antibiotics, which combat bacteria, won’t help fight a virus.

  • Acute pharyngitis.

This infection causes inflammation of the back of the throat, also known as the pharynx. It is most commonly caused by a virus or, more rarely, a bacterial infection. In most cases, it will heal in about a week. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.

Because strep is caused by a bacteria, your doctor is likely to prescribe an antibiotic. Patients typically feel better in about two days.

When taking an antibiotic, it’s important to use as directed and complete the treatment—don’t stop taking the medication when your symptoms subside.

How To Prevent Sore Throat

Caucasian woman washing her hands

Getting a sore throat is often unavoidable; however, by following a few simple steps, you can reduce your chances of getting one. Here are some tips:

  • If someone you know is sick with a sore throat, avoid contact with this person until he or she has been taking antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
  • Wash your hands often. Surfaces like doorknobs and countertops can remain contaminated long after they are touched by someone who is ill
  • Never share food and utensils with others, whether they are sick or not, as this is an easy way to spread germs.

When to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat

thoat check doctor

If your sore throat persists for more than two days, you should seek medical care.

Sore throats are typically easy to diagnose, and a doctor can put you on a treatment plan so you’ll be back on the road to recovery in no time.

If you or someone in your family is suffering from a sore throat—with or without other symptoms—consider visiting your local CareNow® for a complete diagnosis.

CareNow® Urgent Care Can Help

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At CareNow®, we believe the quality medical care you deserve should also be convenient, which is why we are open after hours and on weekends, when your physician’s office typically is closed.

Before your appointment, be sure to use our Web Check-In® to avoid the waiting room!

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If you experience severe pain that causes issues when you eat, talk or sleep; notice a fever that spikes above 101 degrees Fahrenheit; have difficulty turning your head; or feel severe pain on only one side of your throat, you should seek emergency medical treatment.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.