Blog

December 18, 2019

Strep Throat or a Cold? How to Tell the Difference, and When to Call an NP 

Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

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:

1.     Severe pain when swallowing

2.     Swollen, red throat, sometimes with white or yellow dots

3.     Fever

4.     Swollen neck glands 

5.     Vomiting

6.     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.