How can a doctor tell the difference between strep throat and a regular sore throat?
A doctor can do a throat swab culture or a rapid strep test, which brings quick results, but only tests for the most common type of strep bacteria.
Strep throat is much more common in children than in adults, but it’s not as common as many people think. Symptoms that accompany strep infection can be different from just a plain sore throat. They may include fever, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. The throat looks red and swollen and sometimes patches of pus are visible to the doctor.
If strep bacteria are present, antibiotics will be prescribed. That’s because while strep itself can be a mild infection, it can lead to serious complications and other diseases, such as rheumatic fever. When treated promptly with antibiotics, the symptoms usually disappear quickly, but it’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics.
Some doctors prescribe antibiotics routinely, without confirming the presence of strep. This really isn’t a good idea because overuse of antibiotics is creating a very serious problem. Only about 10 percent of children who have a sore throat with fever actually have a strep infection that requires antibiotic treatment.