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How to spot the signs of strep throat

It can be hard to tell if a bad sore throat is really strep throat. To begin with, peering down your own throat to see what’s up is hard to do. This common childhood illness is easily spread from person to person. It is less common in adults, except for those who work with children or are parents of school-aged kids. 

Regardless, winter is right around the corner and that means we'll be spending plenty of time indoors or heading to indoor spaces like crowded movie theaters for warmth and entertainment. At the workplace, if even one person in your office is infected, strep throat can easily spread. Maybe skip that crowded elevator for the next empty one? While avoiding people can help lessen your exposure for a little while, it’s not always easy to do once you feel a tickle of soreness in your throat. Here's how to tell if you have strep throat and what to do when you want to find relief.

Watch for these signs

A sore throat can be a sign of the common cold or strep throat. Both will come with difficulty swallowing, pain and redness. However, there are a few things that separate strep throat from other illnesses.

First, it's important to note that the sore throat associated with strep will come on very quickly. This pain doesn't gradually build over the span of a few days. Rather, you might simply wake up with a sore throat with few other symptoms of note. This can result in pain when swallowing and swollen tonsils.

Secondly, strep throat is known for the prevalence of petechiae in the mouth, throat and tonsils. These little red spots are pretty unique to the infection, making strep easy to diagnose in most people. You might also notice small white patches or streaks of pus on the back of the throat and tonsils. Strep isn't pretty, but getting out the flashlight to look in the back of your throat is vital. If you happen to have a cough or runny nose along with your  sore throat, you might have a cold or a case of the flu.

How to know for sure

Of course, there are a number of other illnesses that have similar symptoms to strep throat. The best way to know if you have a bacterial infection is to visit an urgent care location near you. Most urgent care locations offer rapid tests to check for the presence of the Streptococcus bacterium.

This simple test is, perhaps, one of the easiest exams you can experience at the doctor's office. Your doctor will swab the back of your throat with a cotton swab in order to capture some of the bacteria. It might be a little uncomfortable for those with a strong gag reflex, but saying "Ahh" or using a tongue press can help the process along. Then, your doctor will take the swab and test it to see if Streptococcus is present in your body. If it's positive, you'll typically be prescribed antibiotics to fight the bacteria.

Home treatments to ease your pain

If you can't get to the doctor right away, try drinking warm tea or soup to reduce the inflammation in your throat and ease the swelling. You might also want to gargle warm salt water if you're still having trouble swallowing. The saltwater will help clear out some of the bacteria and ease the inflammation you might be experiencing. And throat lozenges can offer temporary relief.

Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help lower your levels of inflammation. Strep throat is known to result in a fever, so monitoring your temperature is essential until you're able to see a medical professional. Luckily, MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care clinics are conveniently located, with locations across Washington.

If you have strep-like symptoms, don't hesitate to reach out to your nearby  Indigo Health for more information. It’s estimated that more than three million patients visit urgent care centers every week. Rely on the medical professionals at Indigo Urgent Care to feel better in no time.


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