Strep Throat or a Cold? How to Tell the Difference & When to Call Your Health-Care Provider by Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

Strep Throat or a Cold? How to Tell the Difference & When to Call Your Health-Care Provider

Strep throat is a contagious infection caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus. Cases of strep can be mild and restricted to a wicked sore throat and sometimes a rash, known as scarlet fever. Sometimes strep can be more serious, however, and can lead to rheumatic fever, kidney problems and even toxic shock syndrome

Naturally, people are uneasy about strep, but there’s good news: a rapid strep test can tell you if you’ve got it, and timely treatment can help prevent serious complications. Here’s how to tell if your sore throat is a sign of strep:

  • Severe pain when swallowing.
  • Swollen, red throat, sometimes with white or yellow dots.
  • Fever.
  • Swollen neck glands.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.

Since most colds start with a sore throat, many people worry they might have strep, but a telltale sign of strep is the lack of other cold symptoms, like a cough, runny nose and congestion. If you suspect you have strep, call a nurse practitioner to get tested ASAP. Unlike the common viral cold, antibiotics are very effective in treating strep, and they work fast to get you back on your feet again. 

The information on is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information provided through this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider.

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Elisa A. Schmitz 30Seconds
Strep is one of those conditions that causes confusion and can be scary. Thank you for the great info, Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP !

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