When is a Sore Throat Not Just a Sore Throat?

We all develop a sore throat from time to time. There are many reasons for this. It might be due to a viral infection, an allergic reaction, or hoarseness from overuse.  In some case however, a sore throat can be a symptom of strep throat, which is a bacteria that if left untreated can lead to serious complications.

Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils. You can get the infection from someone who is sick with it or is a carrier of it. Like other infections, it spreads from person to person or by touching objects that are contaminated and then touching your own eyes, mouth or nose. Strep throat is most common in children, but anyone can get it.

In addition to a sore throat some other symptoms of strep throat include:

  • A fever of 101 F or higher
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • White patches in the throat
  • Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth
  • Appetite loss
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • Rash

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and can administer a test to confirm if you have strep. There are two ways to test:

  • A rapid strep test can identify a case in just a few minutes. The doctor will gently hold down your tongue with a depressor. Then, use a cotton swab to take a little bit of mucous from the back of the throat.
  • A throat culture is performed by rubbing the sample from the throat swab onto a special dish. If you have strep throat, the streptococci bacteria will grow in it. It usually takes about two days to get results from a throat culture.

If you have strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that caused the infection. Most treatments last for about ten days. The medicine can make your symptoms go away faster and help prevent complications. It is important to take the full the dose of antibiotics. Stopping the medicine too early can leave some bacteria alive, which can make you sick again.

Other things you can take to treat the symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen to bring down a fever and ease pain.
  • Throat lozenges or piece of hard candy to soothe a sore throat.
  • Liquids such as tea and broth or something cold such as an ice pop.

The best way to prevent getting strep is to practice good hygiene. Don’t share cups, dishes, forks, or other personal items with someone who’s sick and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer many times daily.

If untreated, strep can lead to scarlet fever, inflammation of the kidney, and rheumatic fever; a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect that you or your child has strep throat. If you do not have a doctor, please call Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.