Sore throats – sometimes they are caused by a simple cold, sometimes allergies, and other times dry air. They could be a symptom of the viral flu or even bacterial infection, like strep.

Mine started to hurt on Tuesday morning. I woke up to the familiar, weird little tickle feeling in the back of my throat. You know the one. The feeling where you think to yourself, “hmmmm, am I about to get sick?”

I noticed it a few times throughout the day, but managed to get by. Wednesday morning I woke up and immediately thought, “oh yeah, there is that throat pain.” Thursday morning, it felt even worse and I started to have a bit of a runny nose and cough. By Saturday, I just wanted to feel better. I felt zapped and didn’t have much energy to do anything. I was tired of uncomfortable swallows and throat pain.

However, this morning was the first morning it felt better than the day before, but that’s not saying too much because yesterday was my worst day of throat pain. Hopefully I’m on the path to recovery now. If tomorrow doesn’t continue today’s trend of feeling better, I plan to go see my primary care physician.

So what should I do if I have a sore throat?

It’s important to know what to look for if you do have a sore throat. Most of the time they will get better on their own after a few days, but sometimes treatment may require antibiotics and medical attention.

The first thing to do when the familiar tickle begins to manifest is grab a flashlight and say “aaaaahhhhhhh!” You’ve got to take a look at what’s going on back there. Is it red? Swollen? Are there patches or white spots on the back of your throat? Take a look at the very first sign of discomfort and monitor it for any changes.

When examining your sore throat, there are some important questions to ask yourself. Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

Are my lymph nodes swollen?
Each morning I checked my lymph nodes in my neck and didn’t notice much swelling, maybe just a little bit. Swollen lymph nodes are usually a sign that you have an infection and your body has mounted an immune response.

What are lymph nodes?

Your lymph nodes, also called lymph glands, play a vital role in your body’s ability to fight off infections. They function as filters, trapping viruses, bacteria and other causes of illnesses before they can infect other parts of your body. Common areas where you might notice swollen lymph nodes include your neck, under your chin, in your armpits and in your groin.

How painful is it?
Most sore throats get better after a few days, but more serious infections tend to last longer and hurt more. If you have a strep infection, it may even become too painful to swallow.

Do you have a fever?
Each day I checked to see if I had a fever, but at no point did I have one. If you have a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit in conjunction with a sore throat, those two symptoms could be a sign of a more serious infection – like strep. Remember, if you or a loved one of any age experiences a fever temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit; visit your nearest ER immediately.

Keep in mind; if your sore throat is caused by a viral infection then antibiotics do not help. Viral infections like the common cold just need to run their course and your body will do all the work. However, if you have a more serious infection caused by bacteria like strep, you need to see your doctor and get started on antibiotics.

Ultimately, when your throat hurts, it’s important to seek help if it doesn’t start to get better after a few days. Keep track of your symptoms and always contact your doctor if you suspect you have a bacterial infection like strep.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Here are WVMC, we are always here for you and want to help your throat feel better when it’s sore.