Flu vs. Strep throat: Knowing the different symptoms

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MORTON, Ill. — We’re in the middle of the flu season and now doctors say it’s important to be able to tell the difference in flu symptoms and strep throat.

It can be confusing when children are showing a plethora of symptoms, especially when they have a sore throat.

But doctors say when kids have respiratory symptoms like a runny nose, cough, and congestion it’s likely the flu.

When the symptoms are focused on the throat including sore throat and swollen glands in the neck, that’s when doctors say it’s more likely to be strep.

Dr. Rebecca Sierra of OSF Healthcare says when kids get their flu shots, the treatment is much less thorough.

“With strep throat, we don’t see those respiratory symptoms.  We usually just see a sore throat, maybe some swollen glands in the neck.  Some kids will actually have abdominal pain or vomiting with strep throat.  Many kids do have fevers but many kids with strep throat don’t spike a fever,” Dr. Sierra said.

“We usually just have them do fluids, hydration, supportive treatment at home. With strep throat, we do need to treat that with an antibiotic. That would need to be evaluated in the medical office and then they would need a prescription,” Dr. Sierra added.

Dr. Sierra adds when people who have the flu had gotten their flu shots, there’s less of a chance of getting a secondary sickness like pneumonia.

“The chance of developing secondary pneumonia or other complications from the flu is much lower than if they wouldn’t have had the immunization,” Dr. Sierra said.

Dr. Sierra added treatment to flu patients depends on multiple factors like age and underlying medical conditions.

“If you think you have the flu, the treatment really is supportive care.  There are higher-risk patients: Anyone under the age of 2 or any kid with an underlying medical condition like asthma or a heart condition, those kids may need to be treated with an antiviral medication like Tamiflu,” Dr. Sierra said.

Flu season usually runs October to April.

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