Monday, January 27, 2014

When a Sore Throat Should Worry You

      More than 100 viruses can cause the common cold, but the highly contagious rhinovirus is often to blame. The virus enters the human body through the mouth, eyes and nose. A sore throat is usually the first sign of a cold and it typically goes away within four to five days. A runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, cough and a low-grade fever often accompany a sore throat.

     In a world of instant gratification, people want immediate relief from a cold and frequently head to urgent care for help.

      “Colds need to run their course,” says nurse practitioner Brenda Vitucci, CRNP of Meritus Health’s Urgent Care. “But if you have difficulty swallowing, breathing or a high fever, call your health care provider,” says Brenda.

      The best way to treat a sore throat is to drink fluids, like warm tea. “Not only do fluids help flush the virus out of your system, but hydration makes you feel better,” explains Brenda. She also suggests to:
  • Gargle with salt water
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen for discomfort
  • Use saline nasal spray
  • Run a cool mist vaporizer
  • Suck on cough drops, but do not give lozenges to young children
     It’s not uncommon for Brenda’s patients to ask for antibiotics when faced with a cold, but antibiotics should not be used to treat a cold virus and sore throat. Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria and they will not work on sore throats associated with colds.

When does a sore throat need medical attention?
     A sore throat lasting more than two days along with body aches and a fever greater than 101 degrees could indicate strep throat. Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. While most of us think of swollen lymph glands along with throat pain as an indicator of strep throat, signs also include:
  • A fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C) in older children, or any fever lasting longer than 48 hours
  • Red, swollen tonsils with a white coating
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
      Strep throat is highly contagious and common in children between the ages of 5 to 15. Complications of strep throat are rare, but can occur especially if strep throat is not properly treated with antibiotics. Health care providers use a rapid strep test to determine whether a patient has a form of strep throat. If the test comes back negative, a throat culture may be required to further test for strep throat.

How do you treat strep throat?
     Health care providers most often prescribe penicillin to stop the spread of the strep throat bacteria and to reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms.

     “You must complete your entire antibiotic prescription,” warns Brenda. “If you don’t, you can develop strep again and need stronger antibiotics to cure the infection.” Powerful antibiotics and antibiotic overuse are linked to the rise of superbugs including C. difficile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) so follow your prescription carefully.

Tips for preventing the spread of germs
     Personal contact with an infected person—like a handshake—is the most common way germs spread. It's also easy to catch a cold from rubbing your nose after handling an object an infected person sneezed on a few moments ago. The best defense against viruses and infections is a strong offense.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work or school when you’re sick.
  • Sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm.
  • Keep your hands out of your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Disinfect surfaces, light switches, door knobs and remote controls during cold and flu season. 
     Meritus Urgent Care is great resource for when your doctor can’t see you right away or your condition worsens during the evening hours or weekend. But Brenda encourages patients to see their primary care physician whenever possible. “They are the coordinator of your health care,” says Brenda.

     Meritus Urgent Care has new expanded hours! Check out their website for more information!

By: Anne Gill

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