Sore throats can be a real pain, both literally and figuratively. They can make talking, eating, and sleeping difficult, leaving you miserable. But how do you know if you’re experiencing just a viral sore throat that’ll pass or something more serious like strep throat?
Explore the different symptoms that can help determine if you have strep throat vs. a sore throat. Once you figure that out, a medical professional can help you get better.
Common Symptoms of Strep
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might have strep throat and should see a medical provider.
- rapid onset, red-appearing sore throat
- Painful swallowing
- Swollen and red tonsils
- White spots or streaks of pus
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Less common: Headache
- Less Common: Rash
- Less common: Nausea or vomiting
How is Strep Diagnosed?
If you think you have strep throat, see a healthcare professional for an official diagnosis. While some symptoms may point to strep throat, your symptoms could be the result of a different bacterial or viral infection. American Family Care can provide a test to detect strep throat. It involves swabbing the back of your throat and testing it for the presence of bacteria. The results of the test usually come within a few minutes.
If the rapid test is negative, but the healthcare provider still suspects strep throat, they may order a throat culture. This involves swabbing the back of your throat and sending the swab to a laboratory for further evaluation.
If your test results are positive for strep throat, you’ll most likely be prescribed antibiotics to help clear up the infection. It’s vital to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if your symptoms start to improve, to ensure that the infection is fully treated and to prevent the development of complications.
How to Treat a Viral Sore Throat?
If your test returns negative for strep throat, but you still have a sore throat, you may have a viral infection. This is common with the flu or a cold. In this case, antibiotics will not be effective, as they only work against bacterial infections. Instead, you can try these tips to help relieve your symptoms:
- Hydration: Staying hydrated can help soothe your throat and prevent dehydration. Drink and eat plenty of fluids, such as water, tea, and soup.
- Rest: This is essential for your body to recover from a viral infection. Try to get plenty of sleep and avoid strenuous activities until you start to feel better. Talking and singing can aggravate a sore throat, so try to rest your voice as much as possible.
- Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can help relieve dryness and irritation in your throat.
- Over-the-counter drugs: Medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce fever.
- Honey: Honey has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe a sore throat. Add a spoonful of honey to a warm cup of tea or water to help ease your symptoms.
Get Help at AFC
Remember, the only way to know if you have strep throat vs. a sore throat, or even strep throat vs. a bacterial or viral infection is to see a healthcare provider and be evaluated. Luckily, American Family Care (AFC) makes that easy for you to do with our convenient hours, locations, and walk-in availability. So, you could be in and out with a plan of care at your local AFC.
Find a location near you.