Urgent Care - Gardendale
210 Fieldstown Road, Suite 124
Gardendale, AL 35071
205-285-8252
 

Everyone experiences sore throats when they have a cold or flu. But there are other reasons for sore throats that may be symptomatic of more serious problems.

Strep Throat **

Strep throat is caused by streptococcal bacteria (strep) in the throat and often the tonsils. Symptoms include sudden severe sore throat, pain swallowing, a fever over 101oF, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and white or yellow spots on a reddened back of the throat. Strep throat is highly contagious, with a two-to-five day incubation period. It can be diagnosed through a physical examination and a throat culture. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics and usually resolves in three to seven days, although the healing time can be up to two weeks. It is important to have strep throat diagnosed and begin treatment as soon as possible in order to prevent its spread to others.

Inflamed Tonsils

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils located in the back of the throat on both sides of the tongue. Tonsils are part of the body’s natural immune system. This tissue captures bacteria and viruses to either prevent them from entering the body or to start the appropriate immune response. The back of the throat may appear red or swollen or have a white or yellow coating covering the tonsils.  Symptoms include a throat, painful or difficult swallowing,  headache, fever, chills and in particular a very nasal or "hot potato" sounding voice. Tonsillitis may also be cause by strep and usually another bacteria at the same time. Antibiotic medication is generally prescribed if bacterial cause is suspected. Mononucleosis ("mono") can also cause severe tonsillitis that can drag on for weeks. Recently short courses of prednisone have been found to greatly relieve tonsillitis swelling and pain regardless of cause.

Laryngitis

The larynx allows air to pass in and out of the lungs while preventing solids (food) and liquids from entering the lungs. The larynx also contributes to sound production by the vocal cords. Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, and sometimes the top portion of the windpipe (trachea). It is characterized by hoarseness, difficulty in breathing for some children and, occasionally, loss of voice. In addition to an infection, laryngitis may be caused by acid reflux or nodules, polyps or nerve damage on the vocal cords. Laryngitis usually heals by itself within two weeks with the help of increased air moisture, drinking plenty of fluids and resting the voice. Laryngitis is nearly always viral; thus, it is rarely if ever treated with antibiotics.

Pharyngitis

The pharynx is tissue that resides behind the mouth an soft palate and acts as a pathway for food and liquids to enter the esophagus and air to enter the lungs. An inflammation of the pharynx is called pharyngitis. Painful swallowing is the most common symptom. Pharyngitis may also occur along with laryngitis. Again, the inflammation usually heals by itself with rest, fluids and air humidity.

** Testing for strep throat

A common way to test for strep is to use a "rapid strep" test that can be done in the clinic or office with results in only a few minutes. This test is fairly reliable but requires one important element to be most accurate: you need to have had symptoms for at least 24 hours. If you come in with only 12 hours of pain, the test could be negative but then, in another 12 hours, become positive. To get the most from seeing a provider for sore throat, treat yourself symptomatically (advil, tylenol, salt water gargles) and wait to be seen until 24 hours have past. The extra wait will make no difference in the long-term outcome, and, there is less likelihood of a "false negative", ie., the test is negative but you actually have strep throat. A throat culture take 2-3 days but is still the "gold standard".