Could Your Sore Throat Be Strep?

white man suffering from the pain in his throat
We 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

Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Strep throat may cause the lymph nodes in the neck to become swollen and tender. The lymph nodes are responsible for trapping and destroying germs. When part of the body is infected, the nearest lymph nodes tend to swell as they carry out their job.

How High Is the Fever?

Colds sometimes cause a fever, but it’s generally low grade. A sore throat with a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit raises the likelihood of strep. However, strep can be present even with little or no fever.

Unusual Spots?

Mom has the right idea when she asks her kids to say “Ahhh.” Looking inside the throat can reveal important clues about what’s causing the pain. Strep often produces white patches in the throat and on the tonsils, as well as red, swollen tonsils. Pus may be seen in the back of the throat.

Cold Symptoms?

Coughing and postnasal drip can make your throat feel bad, but these symptoms are less likely to occur with strep. When congestion, runny nose, and other cold symptoms accompany a sore throat, a cold virus is usually to blame.

Sickle Cell & Flu Shots: Facts You Don’t Know


Common illnesses, like the flu, can quickly become dangerous, especially for a person with sickle cell disease. Studies have shown that people with sickle cell disease, especially children, are more likely to have flu complications that result in hospitalization and occasionally even death.

So what can you do to help protect yourself and your family?

Get a flu shot! The flu shot is recommended yearly for everyone 6 months of age and older. People with sickle cell disease should get the flu shot, and not FluMist nasal spray.

Parents shouldn’t worry: the seasonal flu shot does not increase the risk of hospitalization for sickle cell crisis among children who have the condition.

After having a shot, it takes about 2 weeks for a person’s body to develop an immune response. Also, remember that anyone can get sick from the flu and easily spread the virus to friends and loved ones—even if they think they’re healthy.

The holidays are here and it’s such a busy time! But don’t forget to contact your doctor and schedule an appointment for your annual flu shot if you haven’t done so already. CDC recommends that people get flu shots as soon as they become available in their community.

Protect yourself and your family from the flu all season long!

Additional links:

Get more tips for healthy living with sickle cell disease

Get the basics about seasonal flu

Use the flu shot locator