Strep or just a sore throat?

Before I launch in to today’s health news, just a quick welcome to my new blog. I’ll be writing about anything and everything that affects the health of Maine people. (An alternate title for this blog was “Nurse Jackie,” but I had to ditch it because I’m not a nurse. Or Edie Falco.)

We tend to think “strep” when we get walloped with a sore throat, but the Maine CDC is reminding the public that a number of culprits may be responsible. “Viruses, bacteria, allergens, environmental irritants (such as cigarette smoke), chronic postnasal drip and fungi can all cause that unpleasant, scratchy and sometimes painful condition known as a sore throat,” the agency writes on its Facebook page today. 

That’s fungi as in Candidiasis, or thrush, not portobellos.

Many times, a sore throat will heal without a trip to the doctor’s office, but some throat infections, including strep, might require antibiotics.

Your doctor can conduct a strep test, involving a throat swab, to determine whether strep bacteria are making you miserable. Besides a sore throat, strep symptoms also may include a fever, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, and tiny red spots at the back of the roof of the mouth.

Antibiotics may be prescribed following a positive strep test.

But do you really need to go to the doctor at all? The Annals of Internal Medicine, a medical journal, has published a new study about a way to potentially save “hundreds of thousands” of unnecessary doctor visits by patients with run-of-the-mill, non-strep sore throats. Doctors from Harvard, MIT and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy in California devised an “at home” scoring system, in which you’d call your doctor after developing a sore throat and answer a bunch of questions about your symptoms. Your score would be calculated based on a formula, which also accounts for your age and how many people in your area have tested positive for strep recently.

A high score means a trip to the doctor and a throat culture. A low score indicates you probably don’t have strep and most likely just need rest, fluids, and a Game of Thrones marathon.


Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.