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  • Dr. Hicks

My throat is sore, how do I know if it is time to see a doctor?

If you have a severe or prolonged sore throat, a fever over 101, trouble swallowing or opening your mouth, any difficulty breathing, pain on only one side, a rash, or swelling of your face or neck, you should make a trip to your doctor or local urgent care center.

There are many causes of a sore throat, but most are caused by viral or bacterial infections. Viruses that cause colds or upper respiratory infections are by far the most common, but antibiotics are useless against viruses. An influenza-caused sore throat usually comes with a fever, muscle aches and pains, and a dry cough. Influenza is one of the few viral illnesses for which there is a specific treatment, but it must be started in the first few days of symptoms.

When a sore throat is from a bacterial infection, antibiotics are needed. The most common bacterial cause is strep throat. Strep throat may cause a fever and sore lymph nodes in the neck, but typically not cold symptoms. Strep throat can result in heart or kidney disease if not treated. A rapid in office test can determine if you have influenza or strep.


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