Cincinnati Family Magazine

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June 25, 2024

Cold or Flu? … Sore Throat or Strep?

Wondering if you have a simple cold on your hands, or something more serious, like the flu or strep throat?  Here are some signs to look for.  According to Gurpreet Thind, M.D.:

Viral sore throats:

  • Tend to be associated with upper respiratory symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion and cough, and may be associated with a fever
  • An exam will show redness in the throat or white patches (exudate), but more commonly, a pediatrician will see ulcers

Strep throat:

  • May be accompanied by a fever, headache, abdominal pain or vomiting, and there is usually an absence of upper respiratory symptoms
  • An exam will show redness, swollen tonsils, red spots on the palate called palatal petechiae, and enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck

“Most sore throats are due to viruses and are present for the first few days of illness,” says Thind.  “If the sore throat is due to strep, then we treat the child with 10 days of antibiotics (or an injection of penicillin if the child is vomiting too much to tolerate an oral antibiotic course) to reduce the chance of developing rheumatic fever.”

And according to Morissa Ladinsky, M.D., a cold presents with slight aches, mild tiredness, a rare or low-grade fever, and usually sneezing.  The flu will result in fever, severe aches and chills, moderate-to-severe fatigue, and about 80 percent of sufferers will have a headache. “While it’s easy to mistake flu symptoms for a cold or ‘just being under the weather’ initially, it’s important to know the difference,” says Ladinsky.  “Prescription antiviral medicine – if started early in a bout of flu – may shorten the length and severity of illness.  Antibiotics will not cure either illness but may be prescribed if ear infections or pneumonia are complicating the viral illness.”

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