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Signs and symptoms of strep throat can include a severe sore throat, fever over 101°F (38.33°C), burning pain when swallowing, and fatigue. Anyone who has experienced these conditions for more than two days should see a medical professional. Since many other common ailments have similar symptoms of strep throat, it's important to see a health care professional to get an appropriate diagnosis.
A bad sore throat is the most obvious symptom of strep throat. While sore throats are common with colds and other viral ailments, strep, on the other hand, is a bacterial infection. The soreness in strep throat, however, is usually much greater, and it often does not take patients long to realize they are not dealing with a more common viral sore throat. At the same time, the simple fact that the soreness is severe, does not necessarily mean it is strep.
Fever is another symptom that may indicate something more serious is afoot. Often, a low-grade fever is present with many different illnesses, but a high fever, anything more than 101°F (38.33°C) is usually associated only with more serious illnesses. Such a high fever in combination with a sore throat is often an indicator that strep, not just a viral infection, is present.
Another way to identify strep is not to find certain symptoms, but to identify a lack of certain symptoms. For example, if there is no runny nose, sneezing or coughing, there's an increased chance the problem is not common cold and could be strep.
A doctor's examination may show other symptoms of strep throat. Spots that are bright red or white in color, located on the roof of the mouth and near the throat, may also indicate strep. Swollen tonsils are another indication. These symptoms do not necessarily indicate strep but together with other symptoms they may be indicative of a strep infection.
Throat cultures are used to determine whether the strep causing bacteria is present. During these procedures, a doctor will swab the throat for testing. The bacteria on the swab is then grown over a period of time, usually a day or two, and then analyzed. Since it is caused by bacteria, the symptoms of strep throat cannot be treated directly; instead, an antibiotic must be used to fight the source of the illness.