What is strep throat?
Streptococcal pharyngitis, better known as strep throat, is an infection of the throat and tonsils. It is caused by group A streptococcus. This bacterial infection usually begins showing symptoms one to three days after initial exposure. Once you have it, strep throat typically lasts seven to ten days.
What are the symptoms?
A sore throat is the major symptom of strep throat. However, many illnesses result in a sore throat, so this is not enough to necessarily point the finger at strep throat. A sore throat caused by strep will appear quickly. It is a raw feeling that may even make swallowing uncomfortable.
Other common strep throat symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Fever over 101F
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen, red tonsils
- White patches in the throat
- Red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Muscle pain or soreness
If you have red eyes, runny nose, or mouth ulcers, then strep throat is unlikely. It is also unlikely that you have strep throat without a fever.
Who is at risk of strep throat?
Spreading strep throat is fairly easy. Any contact with fluids from an infected person’s throat or nose can put you at risk. Adults can spread the infection to each other, of course, but it should come as no surprise that strep throat is common in children. Most adults know they shouldn’t sneeze directly onto another person! Children most likely won’t recognize the risk in sharing food or drinks when they are sick.
Children can come down with sore throats for a variety of reasons, ranging from irritants and allergies to colds and viruses. As such, when you suspect strep throat is possible, it is important to visit a doctor. Depending on the source of their sore throat, the treatment will vary. The right treatment is necessary to ensure a speedy recovery and to avoid spreading the infection to other kids.
How can you prevent strep throat?
Good hygiene is your best defense against developing strep throat. Wash your hands regularly, and do not share utensils with others.
Strep throat is also more common during late fall and early spring. Pay extra attention to who you and your kids are exposed to during these times.
If you work with children or have children of your own, strep throat exposure unfortunately comes with the territory. Remain aware of who is sick and treat any cases within your own family promptly to avoiding spreading it further.
How is strep throat treated?
First and foremost, you need to be diagnosed with strep throat before treatment begins. Thankfully, this is a very simple test! A healthcare professional will swab the back of your throat for a small bit of mucus. A rapid strep test is complete in around 20 minutes. If it is positive, antibiotics are prescribed to treat your strep throat.
If you receive a negative result but your doctor still strongly suspects you may have strep throat, they might send your throat swab to a lab for a throat culture. This can take 2 days, but will be a more accurate test.
In most cases, a 10-day treatment of antibiotics will kill the bacteria infecting your throat. Symptoms will clear up faster and complications can be avoided when you treat strep throat promptly.
It is incredibly important to always take all of the antibiotics prescribed to you. When you stop early and do not take every dose, some bacteria may still be alive. These bacteria can make you sick again! Also, since these bacteria survived the longest, they may create a tougher infection than the original one.
In addition to antibiotics, you can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to make yourself more comfortable. Warm liquids, like tea or broth, can sooth an irritated throat. Getting a lot of rest is also very important to ensuring a speedy recovery.
What if you do not treat strep throat?
We strongly encourage you to always seek medical attention for strep throat. While your body may eventually beat the infection on its own, you are at much higher risk of complications before you improve. These complications can be incredibly serious – like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.
Additionally, without antibiotic treatment, you will be contagious for 2 or 3 weeks, regardless of whether or not your symptoms clear up. This puts your family, coworkers, classmates, and friends at a higher risk of becoming sick themselves.
How serious is strep throat?
The severity of strep throat varies from person to person. Some people have a mild infection, which never rises beyond the level of an uncomfortable sore throat. Other people, however, have much more severe symptoms. If you are having trouble breathing or swallowing, seek immediate medical attention.
When should I see a doctor?
If you suspect that you or a loved one has strep throat, you should visit a medical professional immediately. Gonzaba Urgent Care is open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We can help you determine whether you have strep throat and get you started on antibiotics promptly if needed.