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How Do I Know If It’s Strep Throat or Just a Sore Throat?

~ As Appeared in the August 2017 Issue of North Shore News ~


 This is a question many parents face quite often. You may be dealing with strep throat if there is an abrupt onset of symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, body aches and loss of appetite. Most causes of sore throats are viral, but strep throat is a bacterial infection so a doctor will usually do a swab or send a culture to the lab to confirm the diagnosis. Results are usually available in one to two days.

In addition to pain and discomfort caused by the inflammation of the tonsils, patients with strep throat can develop a rash or lumps in the front of the neck caused by swollen lymph nodes. Complications of strep throat are rare, however, if left untreated, strep throat can lead to something called rheumatic fever which may include painful joints or damage to the valves of the heart. If it becomes a recurring problem, consider the option of surgery to remove the tonsils.

A reminder: Strep throat is not seasonal. It can happen at any time. It can impact people of any age, however, is most common in school age children and young adults. Without antibiotic treatment, it is also highly contagious. To reduce the risk of spreading be sure to wash your hands with either soap and water or hand sanitizer and cover your coughs or sneezes.

After 24 hours of treatment with antibiotics, it is safe for your child to return to school and be around other people. Give your child or yourself enough time to recover. Drink lots of fluids, rest, take your antibiotics and use ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. Avoid aspirin as it may be harmful if used for strep throat.

If symptoms don’t improve after 48 hours of antibiotic treatment call your physician for a follow-up.

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