Flu or Strep?

First I would like to make it clear I am seeking factual information only.

  1. How long -on average- does the flu last, for the average person?

I have never had strep throat.
2) How does one ascertain if one has strep?

As far as I know I only have hay fever.
3) How does one know if one has a sinus infection?

I am not a troll.
My name is Melissa & I live in north Texas.
B/c the last time I had the flu was when I was 7 in 1982 I cannot recall my exact symptoms.
And I don’t think I’ve ever had strep throat.

I have an appointment with my physician tomorrow to review my labwork.
I will ask to have a throat culture taken at that time
and to be referred to an allergist b/c my twin brother and I were allergic to penicillin when we were given it as children.
So it may be prudent to have my allergies tested. And his too. : )

Thank you for any clear information you can provide on the three questions listed above.
I understand that my physician can answer my questions more completely, but
b/c she is swamped right now, I think I need to do some fact-finding on my own.

Thank you again Straight Dopers!
You are my oracle. : )

Influenza generally occurs in the winter and early spring months, and is typified by high fever (102-103 and higher), horrible cough, and lots and lots and lots of aches and pains all over. It is quite debilitating. It lasts 10-14 days, unless its treated with appropriate antiviral agents. It’s hard on the elderly and people with chronic illnesses, and secondary pneumonia is a concern. There is usually little head congestion with it, and sometimes sore throat.

What gets called “the flu” runs a tremendous range of symptoms from minor headache, to diarrhea, to vomiting, to an upper respiratory infection. These are generally NOT caused by the influenza virus, but rather by gastro-intestinal or upper respiratory (cold) viruses.

Strep throat is caused by the strep bacteria, and causes severe sore throat, and high fever. It resolves in 4-5 days, but if not treated with antibiotics, secondary heart and kidney damage can occur


I cannot thank you more.
I feel I must respond so people will not think I’m a troll.

Briefly I will say I am concerned about those time frames you gave Qadgop (God bless you)
& will have to research which antibiotics I stand the best chance of being able to tolerate.

I will ask my twin brother if he will consider having his allergies tested, b/c I don’t think he is fighting anything.
My grandmother is too old, I think, to do it.
I am going back to the doctor tomorrow and review my lab results. My mother said she will drive me if she has to.

I must acknowledge that my building is having the basement rebuilt that was abated for black mold before I started working there, so I am likely just having an allergic reaction to it.

I know for sure, from my mother, that my twin brother and I broke out in whelps when we were given penicillin to treat ear infections as infants.
My director is making an official request for an air quality check where I work today. Thank god. Maybe a little late, : )
But he’s one of the smartest men I have ever met.

My grandmother had severe allergies and I cannot understand why my parents never had any of us tested. As they say, no one has to take a test to be a parent. : )

And who do I thank that the Straight Dope servers are working quickly today? : )

If you have strep throat, your throat will be sore and inflamed. Have someone look at it and see if it’s very red.

If you have the flu, you’ll have a fever, cough, fatigue, and soreness.
With the common cold, you’ll get a mild cough, sneezing, runny nose, and fatigue, but probably no fever.

If you’re coughing up dark phlegm, it’s likely an infection.

If the phlegm is yellow, white, or green, and you have some tightness in your chest, plus maybe a fever, it’s likely some type of bronchitis.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. If you’re at all worried, go see a real one.

Listen to Qadgop, he’s right.

Now unlike Qadgop, I am not a doctor… But I do tend to be sick a lot. So this is just anecdotal.

Flu tends to hit hard. You honestly feel like someone removed your batteries and then beat you all over with them. You feel S.I.C.K. - it hurts to cough, you just can’t get comfortable.

Strep is nasty and contagious. One reason it’s so contagious is that, other than the fever, you really don’t feel so bad in the beginning. When the fever starts to sap you, it starts to feel like you’re swallowing needles. And you might get little white spots on your tonsils and the back of your throat. This is why they do the throat culture.

Allergies might cause you to run a slight fever and have a mild sore throat (from the drainage). Definately see your allergist for testing. The skin-prick test is annoying, but really doesn’t hurt that much. If you do have seasonal allergies, your allergist will probably give you a mild antihistamine or nasal spray. I never realized that I had kept a sinus infection for years until I finally went in for testing. My doc gave me a round of antibiotics and a 24 hour anti-histamine. I never knew I could breathe through my nose AND not have a headache everyday! :slight_smile:

I’m glad you’re going to your doctor about this. This site should help you better understand the differences between allergies and colds.

Thank you.
Nothing exactly fits.
However, I have been trying to eliminate possible illnesses with “If, then” statements.

I found my research in our library databases on black mold poisoning or stachybotrys spores and stachybotryotoxicosis (I wrote it all down) and mycotoxins to be…not reassuring.
How is that treated? I want to know.

I take a medication which can suppress the immune system. Because I may still have an allergy to penicillin I wish I could get my hands on some phages. I wish I knew how.

What bothers me most is that upper sinuses puts pressure on what part of your brain? (Rhetorical question).
It’s not a good thing for me.

My aunt told me ten years ago once that a sinus infection, after she moved with her husband to another part of the country, made her suicidal. I remember that because she’s usually not that forthcoming.

My physician checked my tonsils Monday & after I read about strep when I got home I thought, “No, no white spots.”
They might be kind of inflamed, though.

My throat has been scratchy ever since construction workers took the top off of the basement adjacent to our building. We share the same ventilation system.
Our stupid administration it looks like perhaps did not have the basement under our courtyard waterproofed after the men in spacesuits came and abated it three years ago. Idiots. No one ever told me the abatement details until today. I can’t believe no one ever mentioned those particular details to my new colleague and me who have been there almost three years.
I filled one of the open positions after all that occured.
And so who thinks the young have it so good? Guess again.

My boss told me students have started complaining about their sinuses getting effected while inside our building. And he is taking action, thank god.

Straight dopers, I love these boards.
It’s like Harvard on the net.
And I appreciate your factual and anecdotal information.

I have been trying to keep my sinuses open with peppermint oil like my grandmother uses & a humidifier like my brothers & I had when we were little kids and it has helped.

I wish I had gotten my allergies tested before this.

Many sincere thanks to this community.


I spent 8 years at Johns Hopkins! Don’t Harvard me!


I’m not a doctor either, but my kids had lots of sore throats. Their pediatrician always did a throat culture to diagnose if it was strep or not. He said that visual signs are often not reliable. AFAIK the only way to tell for sure is with a culture.

Sinus infections! Yuk! I’ve had lots of those. You have sinus cavities around your eyes, nose and forehead. When they are just congested, you feel pressure and sometimes pain. There are lots of OTC meds that can often help. When they are infected it is another thing entirely. You want to have your head amputated to make the pain go away. It is sharp and continuous. It can be in just one sinus cavity or in more than one. (It doesn’t put pressure on your actual brain, don’t worry about that.) My doctor (wisely) won’t prescribe any antibiotics unless the symptoms have been going on for several days and aren’t responding to decongestants and the like.

If you have a penicillin allergy, (so do I!) IMHO don’t bother researching the alternatives. Assuming you have a competent doctor, he/she has spent years learning this. There are numerous non-penicillin antibiotics and which one is the best for a particular infection is best left to the professional.

Oh… that’s right.
Harvard has “Harvard Business School”;
John Hopkins has its “School of Medicine”.
I see the difference between the two… : )

For those that stepped up to provide information, I thought you might still be curious…as to what was determined.

Here are the facts.

(1) My primary care physician listened to me (thank god!)
& ordered a urine culture.
It came back positive for an infection.

(2) My tonsils were inflamed so my doctor’s wonderful nurse swabbed my throat to test for strep. The test came back negative.

My primary care physician prescribed a cephalosporin for me to take for 8 days. I finished the round last Sunday & will be going back to her office this Wednesday to have another urine culture done to see if my infection has cleared up.

(2) I asked for a referral to an allergist & received it. (Thankfully.)
I described my symptoms to him.
He diagnosed me with sinus problems because:
a. My tonsils were noticeably inflamed, but I had tested negative for strep at my PCP’s.
b. My jawline lymph lodes were enlarged.
c. I had had mucal discharge running down my throat a few weeks before.
He prescribed an anti-histimine and a nasal corticosteroid spray.
But things are looking up…I’m going to know more after I have a back test next week.

So for now, I am just trying to get better.
The cephalosporin helped, I think, but a few days after I finished it I got a yeast infection. So now I’m trying to do something for that.

I appreciate everyone who gave me factual and anecdotal information based on their experience. You really helped me hang in there & become a better informed partner in my health care. : )

So now I’ll just keep trying to get well again.

Thanks again, Straight Dopers.
Much love : )

I’m allergic to penicillin, too. One thing your allergist will probably tell you when you do get to see him or her is that one can develop NEW allergies to things as one gets older and has more exposure. For instance, I’ve developed allergies to two more kinds of antibiotics in the past year. Unfortunately, both of these antibiotics are pretty powerful and broad-spectrum. This makes treating my infections a bit tricky.