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We’ve all had a scratchy throat. It costs us time at work, keeps the kids home from school and drives our chicken noodle soup budget through the roof. Sometimes it starts with a cough and gradually gets sorer as the week wears on. Other times it comes on quickly, as if we accidentally swallowed a huge, pointy ice cube.

These sore throats may be the result of a few different issues. Commonly, sore throats are related to a viral infection. Viral infections include the common cold and the flu. In other cases, a sore throat is a symptom of a bacterial infection. It’s important to know which illness is sweeping through your household so you can treat everyone properly.

Let’s talk about the different causes of a sore throat and treatments that are recommended for each type of illness. We all know that as the weather begins to cool, seasonal illnesses start to pick up. We at FastMed want to help you prepare, so you know when to see a doctor and when to crawl in bed with a cozy blanket, a good book and the rom-com you’ve seen a million times just because it makes you giggle every time the bad guy slips on ice.

Say, ‘Ahhhh,’ and look for the common cold

If you open wide and see red or swollen tonsils and a bright red throat, your sore throat is probably a viral infection. With a viral infection, you may cough and sneeze, but the sickness will work its way through your system in a few days or a week. A viral infection is a ticket to rest. Call in to work, tell the kids to leave you alone and get comfy because you need sleep.

Now, if your viral infection doesn’t go away or symptoms get worse, you need to look out for the flu. Symptoms of the flu include achy muscles and joints, fever, fatigue and increased coughing. If you think you have the flu, if your cold symptoms feel significantly worse than normal, a healthcare professional at FastMed can run a test to verify your diagnosis. Knowing exactly what is keeping you down is always the quickest path to recovery because you can get the appropriate treatment.

FastMed can also help you prevent the flu if you get your seasonal flu shot. Today there are multiple vaccination options, so ask a healthcare professional at your next FastMed visit which one of the shots is best for you.

If your infection is bacterial, what will you see?

When investigating your sore throat, if you see white spots on your tonsils or a gray, furry coating on your tongue, you didn’t sleepwalk and eat all the cotton balls. No, your infection is likely bacterial. Bacterial infections cause strep throat. A professional at FastMed can complete a quick swab test to determine if you have strep throat.

Symptoms of strep throat vary from those of the common cold or flu. If you have strep, you may experience more pain in your neck, have a tougher time swallowing, get a nagging headache or feel nauseous. Strep throat is no fun at all, and it may take more than a favorite movie to make it go away.

Antibiotics only work to treat a bacterial infection

Why is it so important to know what is causing your sore throat? Well, if you have a bacterial infection, a healthcare professional will prescribe antibiotics. You only want to take antibiotics if you have to. For a long time, antibiotics were overprescribed. This allowed certain bacterial strains to develop a resistance to medicine. We don’t want this to happen. This makes it very important to only take antibiotics when you absolutely should.

Talk to your healthcare professional anytime you are prescribed an antibiotic to make sure you know why you are taking it and how you should take it, and then be sure to finish your prescription. A bad habit that leads to antibiotic resistance is when a patient takes only a part of a prescription, giving bacteria a little taste of the medicine—just enough for them to get used to it. You should finish the prescription to do away with the bacteria completely.

If you have questions call your local FastMed

Throughout the coming seasons, we’ll talk quite a bit about different illnesses, how you can treat and prevent seasonal sicknesses, and when you should see a doctor. But keep in mind, you can call your local FastMed whenever you have questions and make a quick and easy appointment.

We are open every day of the year, including holidays. Our weekend hours let you get in, get out and get back to your movie. You’ll be back in bed long before the good guy comes to his senses and asks the princess, cupcake baker or advice column editor to dance.