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Sore Throat! Do I Need An Antibiotic?

August 30, 2016

Having a sore throat may be common but by no means is it a comfortable condition.  Causes of sore throat can range from allergies to cancer.  How do I know what I have and what can help me feel better?

 

Most common things are most common.  And living in Austin, allergies are common.  Patients that suffer from a sore throat due to allergies and post-nasal drip typically experience nasal congestion, drainage and a dry cough.  Typical interventions include antihistamines, decongestants and nasal steroid sprays.  Of course, you want to avoid decongestants if you have high blood pressure.

 

School season is back in session and anytime kids get together infections tend to spread like wildfire.  There are infections, viral and bacterial, that can cause sore throats, but strep throat is the one that really is important to identify and treat to avoid long-term complications such as Rheumatic heart disease and Post-strep glomerulonephritis.  Typically strep throat is sore throat, fever, lymph node swelling and the lack of a cough which requires treatment with an antibiotic.  However, mononucleosis can present similarly so it’s best to talk to your doctor about testing and treatment.  Symptomatic treatments for sore throat include over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen as well as using salt water gargles.

 

Complications of a severe throat infection include peritonsillar abscess.  Fever, throat pain, and difficulty swallowing liquids/spit are the classic signs of a peritonsillar abscess which will require drainage of the abscess by an ENT.  Go to the nearest emergency room if you experience signs of a peritonsillar abscess.

 

The less common but more serious cause of sore throat is cancer.  If your sore throat is recurrent or persistent, be sure to get evaluated by your doctor and discuss if you need further testing to rule out potential malignancies.  People at higher risk for neck and throat cancers are usually those that have had exposure to tobacco. 

 

Listen to your body and always keep your doctor updated with the symptoms that you experience.

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