Sore Throat - Is It Strep?

Sore throat or pharyngitis is common this time of year. How can you tell if it's bacterial or viral? Well, this video can help, but you should also talk with your doctor. If you don't have a doctor and you live in Detroit, you can talk to us! 

Here are a few bits of information:

Strep throat is caused by Group A Streptococcus, a bacteria that affects the back of the throat. Of the sore throats in kids aged 5 - 15 years, Group A Strep causes only 15 - 30% of these infections. So that means 70 - 85% of all sore throats in kids age 5 - 15 are viral or caused by a virus.

It's hard to tell the difference between a virus and a bacteria, so doctors use the Centor Criteria. The Centor Criteria states that bacterial pharyngitis (Strep throat) is more likely if the following points are met:

  1. Age less than 14 years
  2. Fever, or temperature > 100.4 F
  3. Red throat with discharge
  4. Tender Lymph Nodes
  5. Absence of a cough, or other markers of a viral infection like runny nose, nasal congestion, etc...

Additionally, Strep throat typically has an abrupt onset, with fever, headache, abdominal pain, and nausea likely.

The best thing to do when you have symptoms is to talk with your doctor. Without proper treatment, there can be downstream effects. Children can develop acute rheumatic fever, post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus, but these are rare. 

Appropriate treatment can prevent complications, prevent the spread of the bacteria, and reduce the length and intensity of the infection

Thanks for reading and watching!

- Paul Thomas, MD