By Nathan Miller, MD
Medical Director – Urgent Care Hawaii, Kapolei

So you have a sore throat for a few days and you start to worry, is it strep? Should I go get tested for it? Do I need antibiotics?

There are many different bacteria and viruses out there that can cause a sore throat.  In fact, the vast majority of sore throats we see in the urgent care clinic are due to the same viruses that cause other cold symptoms such as runny nose and cough and don’t require antibiotics.

“Strep throat” refers to an infection of the throat by the bacteria streptococcus. There are many different kinds of streptococcus, but the one we are particularly concerned about with strep throat is “Group A Strep”.

Group A Strep throat infections may develop the complication of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

The reason we are so aggressive about diagnosing and treating Group A Strep is that a very small percentage of patients (about 0.3%) with Group A Strep throat infections will develop the complication of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

Rheumatic heart disease is thought to be caused by an immune response to Group A Strep that attacks the heart and in some cases can even lead to death.  Symptoms do not usually manifest until several weeks after the sore throat has resolved.  Although rare in developed countries today, rheumatic fever used to be a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, prior to the widespread use of testing and antibiotics for strep throat.

Rapid strep testing is widely used in most clinics. However, there are common clinical symptoms that help providers diagnose strep throat. These include:

  1. Fever
  2. Painful swollen lymph nodes
  3. White patches (exudates) on tonsils
  4. Absence of cough

If you have a sore throat with these symptoms, you should be tested for strep throat at your doctor’s office or at your local urgent care clinic immediately.

 


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About Urgent Care Hawaii: Urgent Care Hawaii medical clinics provide immediate and urgent medical care on Oahu for Pearl City, Honolulu, Waikiki, Waipahu, Aiea, Kapolei, Kunia, Waipio, Makakilo, Halawa, Mililani, Kailua and Ewa Beach. The clinics provide quick and affordable options for people needing immediate medical care and treatment for common or everyday health problems seven days a week – no appointments are necessary. The Pearl City location is certified by The Urgent Care Association of America.

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