Strep throat is a kind of bacterial infection that makes the throat feel scratchy and sore. If left untreated, it can cause several kinds of complications, such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation. Rheumatic fever can further lead to heart valve damage or inflamed and painful points, a specific kind of rash.
Strep throat is most commonly in children, but may also affect adults of any age. To know if you or your child has the infection, it is important to know about strep throat symptoms. Read on to know everything significant about the bacterial infection – its symptoms, causes, prevention, treatment and more.
Strep throat symptoms
The main signs and symptoms that helps identify strep throat include:
- Painful swelling
- Frequent throat pain
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes in your neck
- Small red spots on the part at the soft or hard palate (the back region of the roof of the mouth)
- Red and swollen tonsils (in some cases, with streaks of pus or white patches)
- Body ache
- Nausea, mostly seen in younger children
It is also possible that you or your child relate to these symptoms but not be infected with a strep throat. How’s that possible? These sign and symptoms are also common for viral infection and other health issues.
So, it is suggested that you see a doctor for detailed report. There’s also a chance of being exposed to an individual who has a strep throat, but doesn’t show any signs or symptoms.
Strep Throat Causes
The root cause of strep throat is the group A streptococcus bacteria, also called streptococcus pyogenes. The bacteria are highly contagious which can spread by the droplets in the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It can also spread through shared drinks or shared food. Moreover, the doorknobs or other surfaces can transfer the bacteria to your eyes, mouth or nose.
Strep Throat risk factors
There are several elements that can put you at a higher risk of strep throat infection:
Young age: Children are found the most affected by a strep throat infection.
Season of the year: Even though, the possibility of getting infected can be throughout the year, the most crucial time is early spring and winter. Group A Streptococcus bacteria flourishes in places where group of people come in close contact.
Strep Throat Complications
Although this bacterial infection is not very dangerous, there’s a possibility of ending up to some serious complications. It can spread and cause infection in the skin, tonsils, sinuses, middle ear and blood.
Inflammatory reactions by strep infection include:
- Kidney inflammation (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis)
- Rheumatic fever – a kind of fever which is a severe inflammatory infection that can affect your joints, heart, skin and nervous system
- Scarlet fever – a kind of streptococcal infection identified by a prominent rash
- Poststreptococcal reactive arthritis – it is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints
A possible relationship has been found between strep throat and PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with group A streptococci), a rare condition. The term PANDAS is used for describing children whose symptoms of some neuropsychiatric condition like tic disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder are worsened due to strep throat infection. Though, much more research is required to get to a final conclusion.
Right time to see a doctor
You must immediately call the doctor, if you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you are the one having any of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat for more than 2 days
- Problems swallowing or breathing
- Sore throat with a rash
- Sore throat with swollen and tender lymph glands
- If there’s no improvement for an already diagnosed strep throat post 48 hours from the time you took antibiotics.
Strep Throat Diagnosis
On going to the doctor, they will ask about the noticed symptoms and as the symptoms are common with other infections and health problems, the doctor will carry out some tests. Some of the most common tests include:
Rapid strep test: This test takes a few minutes to identify the kind of infection. In this test, your doctor will hold your (or your child’s) tongue using a depressor. Next, he/she will use a cotton swab to take sample from the back area of your throat.
The reports comes within 20 minutes or even less. If the results are positive suggesting you have a strep infection, the doctor will prescribe you antibiotics for relief. In case of a negative result suggesting no strep bacteria found, the doctor (if still suspicious of the condition) will forward the sample to the lab for a follow-up. It usually takes longer for the final report to come.
Throat culture: In this type of test, your doctor will rub a swab over the tonsils and throat to send it to the laboratory. It takes around 2 days for the reports of throat culture. In case the results are positive, there’s streptococci bacteria growing in your body.
Strep Throat Treatment
As soon as you notice any strep throat symptoms, reach out a doctor immediately. There are people who try home remedies to treat strep thoughts. Though, it might work for some, but it is essential to visit a doctor if the white patches don’t go away in a couple of days.
Your doctor will carry out some tests to diagnose strep throat such as throat culture or rapid DNA test. If the test gives positive result, the doctors will prescribe you an antibiotic dosage. Taking proper medication can reduce the symptoms of strep throat and also prevent it from spreading. So, you must see a doctor on time and start the antibiotic dosage.
On time treatment recovers the infection faster and lowers the chances of any serious complications. Penicillin is the most prescribed medicine for strep throat treatment. It is the choice of many health experts and the best part is it’s inexpensive. Penicillin can be allergic to some, if you are, your doctor will prescribe you another antibiotic. Proper medication can help you recover from strep throat. The effects of medication are seen within 4 days of treatment, However, doctors suggests to complete the course of antibiotics prescribed in order to prevent further complications.
For children, the best medicine for treatment of strep throat is amoxicillin. OTC medication or home remedies can also help for mild conditions of the infection. But if the symptoms don’t fade in a couple of days, take your child to the doctor.
Since it is a bacterial infection, it is better to see a doctor rather than trying traditional remedies. It might work for the infection, but you will still be at the risk of complications. The antibiotics can help treating the condition without letting it spread to your family members.
Strep Throat Infection
To treat strep throat infection, your doctor will ask you to get antibiotics that kill the root cause of the infection, the streptococcus bacteria. The majority of treatments last for almost 10 days. Taking the prescribed medicines as instructed helps curing the infection faster, preventing any further complications.
Make sure the infected person takes all the doses properly. Don’t stop taking the medicines in between, as it can leave some bacteria alive, which can make you or your child ill again. If the infected person is allergic to any kind of antibiotics, do inform the doctor about it.
In case of a negative strep test result, a virus is likely to cause the conditions of a sore throat, which goes away in a few days. It doesn’t need antibiotics to kill these viruses. It doesn’t work on them.
Strep Throat home remedies
To get relief from a strep throat, you can try the following easy and natural ways:
- Mix 8 ounces of warm water and a little salt (1/4teaspoon of salt); gargle
- Suck a throat lozenge or any type of hard candy. If your child is 4 years old or less, do not give them these candy, especially small pieces.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to get away with the fever and pain. Don’t give aspirin to teens or children. Though rare, but it might lead to a harmful condition, Reye’s syndrome.
- Drink warm liquids such as broth or tea, Suck something cold like an ice pop.
- Get plenty of rest
- Do not drink orange juice or drinks having acid content
Strep throat prevention
It is always advised to stay home during a strep throat infection. Take leave from work for a few days or don’t send your child to school (if he/she is the one with the infection). Let the body temperature get back to normal and be on antibiotic.
As the infection is highly contagious, it is advised to follow some prevention tips, like:
- Don’t share dishes, food, forks or other personal items with the infected person.
- Cove your mouth and nose with a kerchief or tissue while sneezing or coughing. Ask your child to do the same.
- Keep your hands always clean. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use frequently throughout the day.
- Get good sleep to keep your immune system healthy.
- Increase your physical activity to keep your immune system from getting weak.
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good fats like avocado, olive oil, etc. Eating lean proteins will also boost your system.
- Stop smoking. People who smoke are more susceptible of getting throat complications as they tend to have a sore throat more often than the ones who don’t. So stop smoking.
There’s not much you can do to prevent bacterial or viral infection, as per the doctors. However, taking a few preventive measures can help keeping away from further complications and spread of the infection.
Strep Throat in adults
Mostly, children are at a higher risk of sore throat infection. Parents of school going kids are more exposed to getting infected with a strep throat. If you spend most of your time around children, chances of getting the infection increases.
Strep throat in toddlers
Even though, children are more susceptible to have a strep throat, the condition is quite rare in toddlers, kids less than 3 years of age. Strep throat infection is more common in children between 5 and 15 years.
As the condition is highly contagious, strep throat can spread in places with children around, like schools and day care centers.
Strep throat in pregnant women
The bacteria responsible for strep throat, group A streptococcus, is different from the bacteria found near the rectum or vagina, group B streptococcus. While in case of a pregnant woman, the group B streptococcus can pass on to her baby, but that has nothing to do with strep throat.
If you doubt having a strep throat when you are pregnant, see a doctor immediately and if you have it (in the rarest of cases), seek treatment options. You might be prescribed with antibiotics. Your doctor will monitor all your medications before recommending medication for strep throat.
Strep Throat Vs Sore Throat
Sore throats are a result of viruses, whereas strep throat is the result of a bacterium from the group A streptococcus bacteria category. Sore throats are not always a result of strep infection. There are other illnesses that can also lead to a sore throat, such as:
- A sinus infection
- Acid reflux
- Postnasal drip
- Common cold
Sore throat goes away in a few days. However strep throat requires doctor’s medication to provide some relief.
In a nutshell
Strep throat is type of bacterial infection that infects your throat, making it sore and scratchy. Symptoms like fever, sore throat, frequent throat pain, red spots at the back of the roof of the mouth and painful swelling are associated with strep throat. Doctors recommend to take possible preventions to keep it from spreading.