Sore throats are no fun. When we get them the can interfere with our ability to speak, eat, and if bad enough, drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated. We may look in a mirror, ask a friend to look or take a throat ‘selfie’ with our phone to look for those infamous white patches. If present we are sure we have “strep” (a pharyngitis or throat irritation caused by Streptococcus pyogenes). Before you run off to see you healthcare provider armed with you whisper-voice and your throat selfie let’s talk about it.
Most sore throats are viral (85% in children and 95% in adults) which means that antibiotics will do you no good. Yes even if you have white spots on your tonsils! The symptoms that are present with strep throat include the following:
- sudden onset
- absence of a cough
- nausea and vomiting
- skin rash
- tiny red spots (petechial rash) on the top of the mouth (palate)
- body aches.
- This infection is more common in late Autumn and early Spring.
If you have a family member with strep throat you will not necessarily catch it but it is pretty contagious. Strep can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks. You can also pick up the bacteria from a doorknob or other surface and transfer them to your nose, mouth or eyes. So if a loved one is infected EVERYONE in the home should WASH his or her HANDS like it is their JOB!
So now you know that more often than not, your sore throat is probably viral and time is the only cure.
For more information ….
If you are sitting upright and still have the will to live…. probably not. Kidding aside I see so many patients that believe they have the flu when it is actually a common cold or sometimes even allergies.
Common cold virus symptoms include the following: mild to moderate hacking cough, sore throat, sneezing, runny and or stuffy nose, NO fever, mild aches and less often a mild headache. You can typically perform your daily functions.
Influenza (flu) symptoms: very sudden onset of symptoms, moderate to severe headache, fever (102-104 degrees Fahrenheit), severe body aches, exhaustion, severe cough, chest tightness or discomfort. You are unable to work or do much more than rest.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms: mild cough, some fatigue is possible, NO fever, itchy watery eyes, possible rash, runny nose and sneezing.
Treatment: In 2016 there is still no cure for the cold. There are antiviral medications that are often used to shorten the course and decrease the severity of the flu. But why not arm your immune system with a Flu vaccine to hopefully avoid it all together! Allergies are best managed with antihistamines or topical nasal steroids (Flonase, Nasacort).
The manufacturers of Flonase made this easy chart to help explain what I’ve covered above.
It is very important that if you suspect you have that good old sinus infection you communicate carefully with your provider. If you have been sick for less than a week your sinus infection is viral and does not require antibiotics. To qualify as bacterial rhino sinusitis several key symptoms should be present. 1)duration longer than 10 days, 2)purulent (pus) nasal drainage, and 3) re-sickening meaning that you began to get better and then were pretty sick once again.
Sinus infections are usually (9 out of 10 cases in adults; 5-7 out of 10 cases in children) caused by a virus. They are less commonly (1 out of 10 cases in adults; 3-5 out of 10 cases in children) caused by bacteria.[CDC website]
I’ll be honest. Often we will give you a z-pak to get you out of the office faster instead of trying to convince you that you don’t really need antibiotics. There is no such thing a “nipping it in the bud”. We are sorry you don’t have time to be sick but taking an antibiotic when you have a viral illness will simply contribute to the every growing number of antibiotic resistant bugs.
So, what do you do to manage the symptoms of a viral sinus infection?
- Get some extra rest, and stay hydrated
- oral zinc can decrease the length of a viral illness
- Put a warm compress over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure
- Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray
- Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
- Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever
- flush out the area with a neti pot or sinus rinse
So now you are armed with information to be a responsible citizen when it comes to antibiotic overuse.
Welcome! please read and enjoy my musings on my 30 year career in medical caregiving, being a mom and wife and woman in the 21st century. I hope we can have a lively positive interchange. I’m excited to learn from all of you in the blogosphere.