With every change of season comes one of the most common health problems – sore throat. You often get up in the morning complaining of throat irritation, fever and chills, and you surely know that it’s going to be a ‘sick day’ at work.
While sore throat just looks like a regular infection, there are various reasons behind it, and if left untreated some of them can even lead to serious health complications. Therefore, knowing the underlying cause behind the infection is important – to treat it in the best and most effective way.
So, is your throat infection a cold, flu or strep throat? Well, here are some ways that can help you accurately predict the root cause behind your infection and seek the best medical treatment for quick recovery.
Common cold is a viral infection that usually affects the upper respiratory tract – the nose and the throat. Though many types of viruses can cause common cold, rhinoviruses are the most common reasons behind the infection. Though a short-lived illness, it’s symptoms may linger for weeks altogether and you can be contagious for weeks after the first show of your symptoms. Thus, minimizing other people’s exposure to your cold germs is highly advisable.
While the symptoms of common cold vary from person to person, the most common ones include:
- Sore throat
- Running/stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Headache/ slight body ache
- Low-grade fever
- Malaise (feeling unwell)
While finding remedies for common cold, it is important to remember that colds are viral infections that will take their own due course to subside. Your doctor will not prescribe you antibiotic to treat the infection. However, your physician may prescribe some OTC medicines to help subside the associated symptoms like fever, cough and body ache.
Getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of water, soups and other warm beverages can help you deal with the symptoms in a much better way, strengthening your road to recovery.
Flu or influenza is a viral infection that is usually caused by Influenza virus A and B. However, there are a number of different influenza strains that cause flu every year. Just like cold, flu is also a viral infection, but in flu the symptoms develop very quickly and are usually the worst during the first 3-4 days. Influenza infection can take up to 2 weeks to subside.
While Flu too has symptoms similar to that of common cold, it carries a much bigger risk of causing addition health complications, including sinus, bronchitis, ear infection, strep throat, and even pneumonia. Some of the most common symptoms of flu include:
- Mild-to-high fever
- Sever body aches
- Persistent headache
- Chronic dry cough
- A sore or dry throat
Though persistent and tiring, the symptoms of flu usually fade away on their own within a few days. However, due to health complications and risks associated with flu, it should never be taken lightly. You must get yourself evaluated by a certified medical professional as soon as you start to develop flu-like symptoms. Just like common cold, in flu too no antibiotic treatment in necessary. Plenty of bed rest and drinking ample amount of water, juices and soup can do the magic and can help you speed up your recovery. You may ask your practitioner to prescribe some OTC medicines to help relieve symptomatic discomforts.
Getting you annual flu shot is also an easy way to keep influenza infection at bay. You can ask your primary care doctor for a flu shot right before the flu season begins. In the United States, the flu season can start anytime between October and December and ends in March, reaching its peak level in February.
Unlike common cold and the flu, strep throat is a bacterial infection that’s caused by group A Streptococcus bacterium. Although anyone can catch the disease, strep throat is most common in children aged between 5 and 15 years.
Though only a medical practitioner could diagnose strep throat, common signs to watch out for include:
- Red swollen tonsils, flecked with white specks or pus
- Fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Soreness and swelling of glands under the jaw
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Stomach ache
- Rough red rash
Babies and toddlers could exhibit additional symptoms including:
- Swollen neck glands
- Loss of appetite
- Thick nasal discharge with/ without blood
- Stomach ache
- Scarlet fever
Only your physician can diagnose the disease and would recommend antibiotics for its effective treatment. Strep throat could cause serious complications, including high fever that could ultimately affect the heart valves. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical advice if you or your loved ones are suffering from a sore throat that’s not improving with time.
Call your doctor when in doubt
Sore throat could be due to various underlying reasons – a bacterial infection, a viral attack or something else – that only your doctor can ascertain. Therefore, it’s best to seek expert medical advice if you are suffering from a throat infection that’s only worsening with time or is associated with fever, chills, rashes and other medical issues.