When a Sore Throat Warrants a Trip to the Doctor

Some sore throats require medical intervention.

Myth or Fact? You can tell if you have strep throat by how it looks. The truth is that not even your doctor can do that. Sore throats have many causes. Some resolve themselves, but others require medical intervention. Here's how to know when a sore throat warrants a trip to the doctor.

1. Very sore, red throat

A sore throat can be caused by all kinds of bacteria, viruses, yeast, post-nasal drip, or allergies and sometimes a sore throat resolves itself within a couple days with gargling salt water or taking your allergy med, but if a sore throat persists and becomes red, then the infection or irritant is more than your immune system can handle on its own. Venereal diseases, strep, or thrush in the throat may be spread to others by drinking after each other or kissing so seeing a doctor is also about protecting others.

It's time to schedule your appointment with Walker Family Care if you have this symptom.

2. It hurts to swallow

Mild discomfort in the throat can be a passing irritation, especially if you have mild allergies or a canker sore, but if when you swallow it feels like you're forcing a painful lump down your esophagus, this suggests extreme inflammation of the soft tissues in your throat that make it difficult to eat properly or relax throughout the day. Generally, this inflammation can be quickly resolved with antifungals, antibiotics, or allergy medications, so there's no reason to endure this kind of pain.

Thrush is a common throat infection that makes it hard to swallow. It's caused by yeast, which lives in your body all of the time. Sometimes, after a course of antibiotics, you've killed off the bacteria that keep them in check.

3. You have a fever

A fever is a sign that your immune system is working hard to fight an infection, so if you have one, your immune system may need some help to kick whatever's invading your throat. If you have a fever with a sore throat and it's not the flu, then you likely have strep, but you'll need to see your doctor to be sure.

4. A headache, stomachache and red rash together

Headaches are common with a severe strep infection because the head often feels inflamed by the severe throat infection. It may be accompanied by a stomachache and rash. These symptoms may also accompany other severe throat infections.

5. Earache

An earache suggests that the infection has moved up through your eustachian tubes into the middle ear, which can cause temporary hearing loss. If it goes untreated that infection may burst an eardrum, which can lead to more permanent hearing damage.

6. Pus on tonsils

If you still have your tonsils, one or both may become inflamed with tonsilitis, which causes them to swell, excrete pus, and experience a sharp or throbbing pain. If the person with infected tonsils is young enough, then Dr. Walker may suggest a referral to an ENT for a possible tonsillectomy, which may prevent a lifetime of painful tonsil infections. If you're older, doctors generally don't advise tonsil removal. You'll just need to have Dr. Walker treat the infections as they arise. In some rare instances, a single sore tonsil when the other is fine may indicate possible throat cancer.

If you have a sore throat, don't assume it will go away on its own. Sometimes sore throats mean serious trouble. Contact Walker Family Clinic for an appointment.

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