Could Your Sore Throat Be Strep?

    A doctor using a tongue depressor and flashlight to examine a patient's throatWe all know that raw, scratchy feeling in the back of the throat. The cause may be as simple as dry winter air, seasonal allergies, or a developing cold. But sometimes the culprit is strep, a bacterial infection that can be dangerous if untreated. Only your health care provider can make a firm diagnosis, but there are signs that may provide clues that you have strep rather than a common sore throat.

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    What Exactly Is Strep?

    The reason it’s so important to distinguish between strep and a common sore throat is that strep is caused by a bacterial infection — Group A Streptococcus — and a simple sore throat is usually caused by a virus. Antibiotic treatment may lessen symptoms and duration of illness. It will also decrease the chance for complications. Without antibiotics, a strep infection may lead to complications that affect the heart or other organs. Though rare, this can cause serious illness.

    How Much Does It Hurt?

    A sore throat caused by a cold can be plenty painful, but it usually goes away after a couple of days. Strep throat tends to be more severe and persistent — the pain may be so bad, it’s hard to swallow. In some cases, strep may cause nausea, a lack of

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