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Strep, Cold, or Flu?

Knowing which it is may save you a trip to urgent care.  Here is a symptom summary to help.

Streptococcus pyogenes : bacteria, not a virus
• No cough (key)
• Sudden sore throat
• Red swollen tonsils with white spots–not pus
• Pain when swallowing
• Fever
• Swollen neck glands
• Loss of appetite
• Headache
• Abdominal pain

sick In bed with strep, cold, or flu?

(about 50% are rhinovirus)
2 day incubation time 36~72 hrs
3-10 days duration
• Sneezing & Coughing (key)
• Slow onset
• Sore Throat
• Pus or exudate in back of throat
• Runny nose
• Red, itchy or watery eyes
• No fever

2 day incubation time 36~72 hrs
5 days to 2 weeks duration
• Sudden onset “hits you like a ton of bricks”
• Muscle / body aches
• Fever causing chills & sweats
• Fatigue / weak / dizzy
• Sore Throat preceding Nasal Congestion
• Nasal Congestion stuffed-up, hard to breathe
• Headache
• Swollen glands

• Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot multiply or thrive on surfaces because they need living cells of a host, and may survive on a surface for about 3 hours.
• Cold viruses, i.e. rhinovirus, thrive in lower humidity.  If your house is too dry or the humidity outside is low, the lining of your nose is likely to be drier.
• Cold viruses live only in the nose of humans, not animals (except primates).
• Cold viruses reproduce every 8 hours.
• Cold virus can still be contagious 3 days after symptoms disappear.

sources for this article:

Brigham Health Hub
WebMD & Wikipedia
Understanding Colds
Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials
New York Times Health “The Claim: A Cold is Contagious Only Before Symptoms Emerge” By Anahad O’Connor March 15, 2005