While strep throat accounts for only a small number of sore throats, it can be truly miserable. In fact, when strep throat is left untreated, it can even result in complications, such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. Identifying strep throat as soon as possible is the best way to prevent complications and to get you or your loved one on the road to recovery quickly. If you have developed a sore throat, the information below can help you determine if it may be strep throat. If you think you're suffering from minor symptoms of strep throat, consider visiting us as soon as possible.
What Is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is defined as a bacterial infection that results in an inflamed and painful throat. The illness, which is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, is most common in those between the age of five and fifteen years; however, it can affect people of all ages.
Symptoms Of Strep Throat
While symptoms can vary, if you have developed strep throat, you will likely experience one or more of the following:
- A quick-onset sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Tonsils that are red and swollen
- Fever, headache and body aches
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- White patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils
- A loss of appetite
It is possible for some people to experience many of these symptoms and not have strep throat. Viral infections and other illnesses often appear with the same symptoms. It is also possible for someone to have strep throat without experiencing any symptoms at all.
How Is Strep Throat Spread?
The bacteria that causes strep throat, Streptococcus pyogenes, is extremely contagious. Strep throat is spread through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Sharing food or drinks also spreads the bacteria. If you touch surfaces, such as a doorknob or countertop, where the bacteria lives, it can also be transferred to your nose, mouth or eyes.
Diagnosing Strep Throat
If you suspect you have strep throat, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will first look for signs and symptoms of strep throat and then perform a throat swab, also known as a rapid antigen test. This test can let your doctor know within minutes if you have strep throat. If this test appears negative, but you are showing multiple symptoms of strep, your doctor may also do a throat culture. For a throat culture, a sterile swab is rubbed over the tonsils and sent to a reference lab for further testing.
Treating Strep Throat
If your doctor determines you have strep throat, he or she will likely prescribe you an antibiotic to help treat the bacterial infection. The two most common medications prescribed for strep throat are penicillin and amoxicillin; however, there are several types of antibiotics available.
It’s is crucial for your recovery that you complete the entire antibiotic treatment course so the infection is completely gone. Often, people will stop taking their medication as soon as symptoms subside, but this can result in a relapse of infection.
As you continue your antibiotic treatment, there are several things you can do at home to minimize the symptoms as well.
- Regularly drink warm liquids like lemon water and tea
- Don’t forget to drink cold liquids like iced water, which can also help numb the throat
- Utilize a cool-mist humidifier that will keep the air in your home moist
- Include ibuprofen or acetaminophen in your recovery to help alleviate pain and inflammation
- Keep throat lozenges on hand to suck on when the pain gets bad
- Gargle half a teaspoon of salt mixed with one cup of warm water
Complications From Strep Throat
While rare, complications can occur from strep throat. While the infection typically improves within one week, if strep throat is left untreated, it can cause intense complications. These complications include:
- Ear infection
- Inflammation of the joints, heart or skin
- Inflammation of the kidneys
- Infection of the mastoid bone in the skull
- Scarlet fever
- Guttate psoriasis
- A pus-filled infection (abscess) in the back of the tonsils
If you notice your symptoms aren’t improving after 48 hours of being on antibiotics, you should contact your doctor to reduce your chances of complications. It may be that you need a different antibiotic.
When You Should See A Doctor
If you experience any of the following even after seeing a doctor, you should return immediately:
- A sore throat that is accompanied by swollen lymph glands
- A sore throat that lasts more than 48 hours
- A fever that is higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- A sore throat that is accompanied by a rash
How To Prevent Strep Throat
Because strep throat is so contagious, it can be difficult to prevent. However, there are measures you can take to greatly reduce your risk of catching the infection. The best way to keep from getting strep throat is to stay away from anyone who may be infected. Sometimes, however, this is unavoidable. If you must care for a sick person (such as your child), avoid sharing any personal items with them. This includes silverware, toothbrushes, food and drinks.
It’s also crucial you wash your hands before you eat and any time you use the restroom to avoid the spreading of germs. If you don’t have access to a sink, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work just fine. Finally, clean all commonly touched surfaces in your home often. Doorknobs, countertops, etc. are often home for the spreadable bacteria, so keeping these areas clean can kill them before they make someone in your home sick.
CareNow Can Help
If you find yourself suffering from strep throat symptoms, consider visiting your local CareNow. At CareNow, our independent practitioners provide a full range of primary and urgent care services. One of our board certified family medicine doctors can diagnose your illness and determine the best antibiotic to treat you.
To find the nearest CareNow to you, visit our website. Be sure to check in online to avoid the waiting room!
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.