While it only accounts for a small percentage of sore throats, strep throat can cause serious complications, including rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation. To determine whether you should seek treatment for your sore throat, consider the following.
What Causes a Sore Throat?
Also known as pharyngitis, a sore throat is most commonly caused by a viral infection, such as the flu or common cold. In some cases, it can also be caused by the streptococcus bacteria. When caused by a virus, sore throats tend to improve on their own without medical care. When caused by strep, however, antibiotics are usually needed to prevent complications.
Understanding the Symptoms
While viral sore throats tend to come with other cold symptoms, such as cough, runny nose, sneezing and red or watery eyes, strep throat can cause some or all of the following symptoms:
• Throat pain that tends to come on suddenly
• Pain when swallowing
• Swollen and red tonsils
• White patches, red dots or pus
• Tender, swollen lymph nodes in the neck
• Body aches
When to Seek Help
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents take their child to the doctor when a sore throat does not go away after the first drink of water in the morning. For adults, the American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests a medical evaluation in response to any of the following symptoms:
• Sore throats that persist after a week
• Difficulty breathing or swallowing
• Trouble opening the mouth
• Rash, earache or joint pain
• A fever higher than 101 F
• A lump in your neck
• Bloody phlegm or saliva
• Hoarseness that lasts longer than two weeks
Doctors can check for strep throat by performing a rapid antigen test or throat culture. With antibiotic treatments, strep throat tends to go away rather quickly; however, it’s very important to take all of your antibiotics according to your doctor’s recommendations to prevent a recurrence or a more serious drug-resistant infection.