Is It A Cold…Or Is It Strep?

Black African woman with sore throatStrep throat is a common bacterial infection that impacts the throat and tonsil areas. Although many people have heard the term, the details of this infection are often not widely understood.

Causes and Diagnosis

Strep throat is caused by the streptococcal bacteria, of which there are several kinds. Although some individuals with sore throats may believe that they have strep throat, it can only be identified with a throat swab and/or a laboratory test. A “rapid strep test” can often be performed right in the physician’s office. If this test is positive, treatment is indicated. If it is negative, a throat culture is often sent out to a laboratory for confirmation since the rapid tests can sometimes show “false negatives”.  The laboratory will then provide information regarding what antibiotic medications will be effective against this particular strain of bacteria.


Strep throat is often characterized by the sudden onset of a very sore throat with significant difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia). Fever over 101 degrees F is common, as are swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, and a very red throat which may or may not show white patches. Headache is common, although symptoms like abdominal pain and nausea and vomiting are more rare.