When a Sore Throat Warrants a Trip to Urgent Care

A sore throat is uncomfortable, there’s no question about it. Whether it’s scratchy, painful, causes you to be hoarse, or makes it difficult to swallow, a sore throat can be the result of many different conditions, ranging from allergies to tonsillitis. How do you know when it’s nothing to worry about and when you should jump in the car and head for urgent care?

Bharat Gandhi, MD, and Priya Gandhi, MD MPH, of Medinet Family Care Clinic in Houston and Sugar Land, Texas, see many sore throats in their primary care practice and they want you to understand the difference between a nuisance sore throat and one that needs immediate attention.

What is urgent care?

Urgent care centers fall midway between doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. They usually operate outside of doctors’ normal business hours, including evenings, weekends, and some holidays, so if you have a minor medical emergency, are ill, or even just need a vaccination, we are open when you need it.

What are some causes of sore throats?

There are many different conditions that can cause a sore throat. 

Allergies

Your immune system exists to protect your body from harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses. However, you can also have an allergic reaction to substances that are generally harmless, such as certain foods, pollen, and pet dander. These substances are collectively called allergens.

The most common symptoms of airborne allergies include:

All of the symptoms of this type of allergic response, including the sore throat, are relatively mild and are usually handled with over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications and decongestants. You may also need to see an allergist if the symptoms become more troublesome or if you have reactions to numerous different allergens.

Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip occurs when excess mucus travels from the sinuses behind your nose down the back of your throat. This often leads to a persistent sore or scratchy throat. The drip may be caused by weather changes, spicy foods, allergies, dry air, and sinus medications, among other things.

In addition to a sore throat, symptoms of a postnasal drip include:

As with allergies, postnasal drip is usually treated with OTC remedies, such as sinus rinses, or with stronger prescription medications.

Colds and the flu

Colds and the flu both result from viral infections. Both illnesses cause a runny nose, sore throat, cough, generalized pain, and fatigue. Only the flu, though, presents with chills and a fever.

Both can lead to secondary infections like a strep throat since your immune system is already taxed and can’t fight the pathogens off as easily as it normally could.

Strep throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can cause the following symptoms:

We can diagnose and treat strep throat with the appropriate medications. 

When should you go to an urgent care facility for a sore throat?

Sore throats are uncomfortable and definitely a nuisance, but as we’ve seen, not all result from conditions that require immediate care.

So when should you make an appointment with your doctor or go to urgent care? Generally, you should seek immediate treatment if you experience any of the following along with your sore throat:

Contact our doctors as soon as possible for an urgent care appointment if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you suspect a strep infection, so they can take a throat swab. If the test comes up positive, they can treat it with antibiotics. At the least, they can give you symptom relief so you can be more comfortable until you can schedule a regular primary care appointment.

If you’re having difficulty after hours or on weekends, go immediately to our nearest urgent care facility. We can take a throat swab, make note of other symptoms to form a diagnosis, and provide first-line treatment. We’ll also recommend that you follow up with your doctor within the next day or so, so you’ll be back in familiar hands.

Are you feeling under the weather and need to know if your sore throat warrant a trip to urgent care? Call Medinet Family Care Clinic at 281-564-3300 or contact us online today.

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