Strep throat or the common cold: How to tell?

BMC doctor offers tips for Central Oregonians

POSTED: 7:25 PM PST November 6, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

The sound of coughs and sneezes are common around this time. Cold season is in the air.
 
According to researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, 12 million people make doctor's visits for a sore throat every year.
 
"Most of the time that's the case it's viral pharyngitis or a sore throat caused by a virus," Bend Memorial Clinic family physician Dr. Mattie Towle said Wednesday.
 
The common cold remedy? Just a little rest.

Many people who make those visits to the doctor's office fear strep throat, but the reality is, it's not as common as you think.
 
"I think it tends to pass through school-age populations and preschool populations more readily because they don't practice hand hygiene as much as the adult population does," Towle said.

So to save you money and time in a waiting room, here are some of Towle's warning signs:  a red, "beefy" throat, swollen tonsils with a gray and white film on them, swollen lymph nodes, a fever -- and no runny nose or cough.
 
"It's one of the few types of sore throats for which antibiotics are indicated and helpful," said Dr. Towle.
 
If you're not sure, doctors say better safe than have strep and risk passing it on to those around you.
 
"Occasionally, you will be surprised. You'll be like, 'Oh, I didn't think this person had strep' -- but they do,'" said Towle.