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When you have a sore throat, congestion, headache, and hacking cough it can be difficult to decide what illness is to blame. Is it the flu? A cold? Strep throat? Sinus infection? Pneumonia? The best way to diagnose a specific medical condition is to seek the care of a medical professional. However, there is a lot you can learn about your illness by simply paying attention to your symptoms.

Many people get a sore throat and automatically associate it with strep throat without paying attention to the symptoms that accompany it. The fact is, strep throat rarely causes congestion and almost never causes a cough. Instead, individuals with strep throat more often have a sore throat accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, and white spots on their tonsils and along the back of their throat.

Understand Your Sore Throat and Congestion

Sore Throat CongestionA sore throat accompanied by congestion and coughing are symptoms most commonly associated with the flu, a cold, or a sinus infection.

Influenza (the flu):

According to the CDC, “the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.”


  • Fever and chills
  • Sore throat and congestion
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Severe fatigue

The common cold:

The common cold is the most common illness in the United States, with close to 1 billion Americans suffering colds each year. Although the symptoms of a cold are similar to that of the flu (sore throat, congestion, and cough) they tend to be much milder and usually go away within a few days.

Sinus infection or sinusitis:

After a cold, you are at a greater risk for developing a sinus infection because of the swelling and inflammation of the sinuses that occurs during a cold. According to WebMD, “When sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, bacteria can grow there and cause infection. This infection is sinusitis.”


  • Thick, yellow nasal discharge
  • Sore throat and congestion
  • Pain around face and eyes due to sinus pressure
  • Post nasal drip
  • Fever and cough

Because so many of these symptoms overlap, the best way to diagnose your illness is to see a medical professional. FastMed Urgent Care is available every day of the year without an appointment. FastMed Urgent Care has even been awarded the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Accreditation in Ambulatory Care by demonstrating compliance with the Joint Commission’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety in ambulatory health care. Feel free to contact us today to learn more.

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