“Untreated strep can lead to serious complications such as a rare kidney complication called post streptococcal glomerulonephritis.”
Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils that causes pharyngitis, which is a sore throat accompanied with discomfort, pain, or scratchiness; usually making it hard to swallow. Group A Streptococcus bacteria is the germ which causes a strep throat infection.
Causes of Strep Throat
Although anyone can contract Strep throat, it is common in children between ages 5 and 15, and spreads through a person to person contact with fluids from the nose or saliva (such as droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze). Those infected are advised not to share their drinking glass or eat with others from the same plate, as the infection could spread through such contact.
Strep throat can also be caused from contact with sores from group A strep skin infections.
Common Symptoms of Strep Throat
- Sore throat, usually starting quickly
- Severe pain when swallowing
- Fever (101 degrees Fahrenheit or above)
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
- Tiny red spots (petechiae) on the soft or hard palate – the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Body aches
- Rash (scarlet fever-like rash, which appears first on the neck and chest, and then spreads all over…may feel like sandpaper)
- Loss of appetite or abnormal taste
Note: Although there are different strains of strep throat, the symptoms are similar, and are mostly caused by viruses, not bacteria. Call your doctor or healthcare provider once you develop symptoms of strep throat.
How to Tell You Have a Strep
Your healthcare provider would have to do a test (usually a quick swab of the throat) to determine if you have a strep throat (note, just looking at your throat is not enough to make a diagnosis). If your doctor strongly suspects a strep infection despite a negative result from the quick test, he/she may request a throat swab that will be cultured to see if a strep grows from it.
Treatment of Strep Throat
A positive test of strep throat would require treatment with antibiotics. Treatment usually last ten days, but most people start feeling better within 48hours of taking antibiotics.
Note: Call your doctor or healthcare provider if you don’t feel better within 24-48 hours.
Tips to Help Your Sore Throat Feel Better
- Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey
- Gargle several times a day with salt water (1/2 tea spoon of salt in 1 cup water)
- Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles
- Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges (avoid giving young children these as they could choke on them)
- A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat
- Try over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Prevention of Strep Throat
- Wash your hands often and avoid sharing eating utensils (for example, fork or cups)
- If infected, make sure to wash your hands often and cover your coughs and sneezes
- Stay home from work, school, or daycare until you have been n antibiotics for at least one day (24 hours)
- Get a new toothbrush after you are no longer contagious but before finishing the antibiotics (otherwise, the bacteria can live in the tooth brush and re-infect you when the antibiotics are done
- Keep the family’s toothbrushes and utensils separate, unless the utensils have been washed
Note: There are individuals who are strep carriers, meaning they have strep in their throats, but they don’t get sick from the bacteria. If repeated cases of strep occur in the family, check to see if someone is a strep carrier. Treating strep carriers can prevent others from getting strep throat.
Although symptoms of strep throat usually get better in about 1 week, untreated strep can lead to serious complications such as a rare kidney complication called post streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
Other complications include:
- Rheumatic fever (an inflammatory disease that can affect the heart, joints, skin, and brain)
- Ear infection
- Guttate psoriasis
- Peritonsillar abscess
- Scarlet fever