Urgent Care: Is It Strep or a Sore Throat?

urgent care Manassas, VA

When you feel the pain of a sore throat, an urgent care clinic can help diagnose the root of the problem. While a sore throat is usually the first sign of a common cold, in some cases, it can signify a more serious illness known as strep throat.

Treating the symptoms of the sore throat are secondary to finding out what is causing this pain. In fact, the common cold and strep throat are treated in different ways.

The two main causes of a sore throat are viruses or bacteria. Find out if your sore throat is a mere common cold or if it could be strep.

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is usually one of the first symptoms to present with the common cold. This viral infection causes many different symptoms, from nasal congestion to a mucous-producing cough. Often, a sore throat is caused by drainage from the nasal cavity down through the throat, known as postnasal drip.

If the sore throat is, in fact, due to the cold virus, it will get better or go away completely within the first few days. Although an unpleasant symptom, a sore throat is normally not the focal point of a cold.

Other symptoms of a cold

Sore throats due to a cold will come with a variety of other signs. Sneezing, runny nose, mild headache, body aches and a low fever can all accompany this illness. A productive cough, congestion and malaise (generally feeling unwell) are also common.

How is a sore throat due to the cold virus treated?

There is no cure for viral infections, so the cold must run its course. However, there are over-the-counter medications to lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly cut illness time down. For adults, pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce swelling and inflammation caused by a sore throat. Keep in mind that aspirin should not be given to children, as it puts them at risk for a dangerous condition known as Reye's syndrome.

Both adults and children may benefit from a sore throat spray to soothe pain temporarily. For sore throats caused by postnasal drip, decongestant nasal sprays can help stop the flow of mucous for a short period of time.

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is a highly contagious bacterial infection that focuses on one blaring symptom: an intense sore throat. This sore throat will not respond to cold medications and can persist up to five days. If strep is not treated, it can lead to rheumatic fever.

Symptoms of strep

Sore throat associated with strep comes on very quickly, and swallowing can be painful. A high fever generally follows the throat pain. Lymph nodes in and around the neck may be swollen and tender to the touch. The tonsils will look red and swollen and might have white patches or streaks of pus on them.

How is strep treated?

Strep must be diagnosed by a doctor. An urgent care facility is the best bet in receiving fast and effective treatment for strep. The doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to cure the bacterial infection.

If you have a cold, it is best to cope with the symptoms at home. A doctor can recommend cold medications but cannot help speed up the virus life cycle. However, if you suspect you might have strep, consider heading to an urgent care clinic as soon as possible to treat it.

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