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How Is Strep Throat Different From a Sore Throat With a Cold?

Strep throat is caused by an infection of streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat spreads by having contact with an infected person's saliva or nasal secretions. Although strep throat is more common in children aged 5 to 15, it also occurs in adults. To diagnose strep throat, your doctor can check a rapid strep test or send a throat swab to the lab for a culture.

Is Strep Throat More Serious Than a Sore Throat With a Cold?

Strep throat can cause more serious illnesses, such as rheumatic fever, a disease that may harm the heart valves. That's why it's important to get proper medical treatment. With proper treatment, strep throat is usually cured within 10 days.

Are Strep Throat Symptoms Different From a Sore Throat With a Cold?

Strep throat symptoms are usually more severe than symptoms of a sore throat with a cold and may include the following:

  • Sudden sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful swallowing
  • Red tonsils with white spots
  • Fever

Do I Need to See my Doctor if I Think I Have Strep Throat?

The symptoms of a cold and strep throat can be very similar. If you think you have symptoms of strep throat, visit your health care provider. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam, and you may be given a strep test. 

What Is a Strep Test for a Sore Throat?

A rapid strep test checks for streptococcus bacteria infection in the throat. The test is painless and takes very little time. The tip of a cotton swab is used to wipe the back of the throat. The swab is then tested right away. If the strep test is positive, you have strep throat. If the strep test is negative, you likely do not have strep throat. However, if there are strong signs of strep throat, your health care provider can do a different throat swab test that is sent to the lab to see if strep bacteria can be grown (cultured) from it. A throat culture takes a couple of days for results. 

What Is the Treatment for Strep Throat?

Strep throat is treated using antibiotics, which kill the bacteria causing the infection. Antibiotics are often taken as pills or given as a shot. Penicillin and amoxicillin are common antibiotics used to treat strep throat. Other antibiotics are prescribed for people who are allergic to penicillin.

Follow your health care provider's instructions for antibiotic use. Take all of the medication, even if you feel better. You should feel better within a day or two. A person with strep throat should stay home until 24 hours after starting the antibiotic.