ZocdocAnswersDo I have strep throat if breathing hurts?

Question

Do I have strep throat if breathing hurts?

I am 29 and have never had strep throat. Now it hurts to breathe or swallow. Is it strep?

Answer

Sorry to hear that you are having pain with breathing and swallowing. This is a good question, especially since you have never had strep throat before. "Strep throat" is an overused term that most people use to describe pharyngitis or tonsillitis without any thought given to the etiology of the infection. In a strict sense "strep throat" refers to an infection of the throat (pharyngitis) that is caused by a specific bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep). It causes local inflammation, pain in the throat, tonsillar swelling and exudates, as well as fever, malaise, and cervical lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes). It is spread from person to person through close contact. It is impossible however to determine whether someone is infected with this particular bacteria by symptoms alone. This is because there are many different infectious agents that can cause pharyngitis. In fact if I was a gambling man I would say that your pharyngitis is likely due to a viral infection because the vast majority of "sore throats" are due to viruses. Traditionally a throat swab needed to be taken From the infected individual, and cultured on specific agar to determine if it is Strep. As you can imagine this was time consuming, and you didn't get answers for a couple days. Now there is something called a rapid strep test that gives results in a manner of minutes. If you have had your sore throat for more than 5 days, or if it gets so bad that you have a hard time swallowing liquids, I would recommend getting evaluated by your primary care physician. Of course if you have any breathing trouble or vocal change, I would definitely recommend going to the emergency department. I hope that this is helpful.

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