At Urgent Care in Danbury we have a lot of people walking in with sore throats, especially in the winter months. Throat infections are common, but there is often confusion over whether you suffer from a strep infection, or a viral infection.
How to know if you have strep throat?
Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection. A viral throat infection is much more common, and we see many more of those than strep. It also has different symptoms than strep throat.
The common denominator is a sore throat. After that symptoms differ.
Typical strep throat symptoms:
Fever, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, white patches on the back of the throat and swollen glands.
Typical viral sore throat symptoms:
None of the above except for a sore throat- no fever, body aches, white patches or swollen glands.
There are different treatments for each.
Strep throat treatments:
Antibiotics backed up by Ibuprofen (either Motrin or Advil), plenty of rest and fluids.
Viral sore throat treatments:
Supportive care: Motrin or Advil, fluids and rest. Antibiotics will not be effective on a viral sore throat.
How to diagnose a strep throat?
At Danbury we do a rapid strep test, with a swab at the back of your throat. The rapid strep test only takes about 5 to 10 minutes for results and if the results are positive, the diagnosis is confirmed. However, a negative test does not rule out strep throat since the rapid test may miss some strep throat infections, so if the provider thinks that strep is present, based on the patients symptoms he or she might go further and take a throat culture, sending it out to the lab.
Remember that both strep and viral throat infections are contagious through contact, so constant washing of hands, not sharing cups or food and being careful when coughing is important to stop the spread of a throat infection.
Strep throat usually ceases to be contagious after someone has been on antibiotics for 24 hours, where-as a viral sore throat will be contagious for as long as the symptoms last.