Have the sniffles and feel a sore throat coming on? Wondering if you need to take antibiotics?! Before heading to the nearest urgent care, read below and ask yourself the following questions first.
How long have I had symptoms for?
It’s been just a few hours but feeling worse? Don’t jump to conclusions yet. At the beginning of an acute illness, symptoms tend to get worse before they get better, and it is very hard to tell if you have a viral or bacterial infection (or allergies!) at this point.
If your symptoms have lasted for a week or longer, this is a sign that you may benefit from taking antibiotics.
Are my symptoms improving or getting worse?
This goes along with the above question. If after a few days your symptoms seem to be getting worse and not better, this may be a sign that your infection is bacterial or your immune system has weakened and now you are infected with a bacterial infection. Just keep in mind that it is very hard to tell between a bacterial or a viral infection when it has been under a week.
My throat is sore and I have a cough – do I have Strep throat?
If you have a cough, that is actually an indicator that you likely DO NOT have Strep throat. Symptoms of Strep throat include swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck, swollen tonsils with white streaks, fever, no cough, and sudden onset throat pain.
Keep in mind that the majority of colds are viral in origin, which means antibiotics will not help you. Some of the best things you can do to feel better and get better include drinking lots of fluids, rest, and hand washing.
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab.