Sore throats are a very common childhood illness that carries over into adulthood. However, it can switch from a simple sore throat to strep throat, and this is what many people get. Strep throat’s root cause is a bacterial infection in the tissues of your throat. The Streptococcus bacteria causes the pain and inflammation that many people associate with strep throat, and it can also lead to a scratchy feeling.
The bacteria that cause strep throat live in your throat and nose, and you can get it from someone who has an active infection or who is a carrier. Just like other infections you can get, step throat spreads through close contact with someone who has it or who carries it. When these people cough or sneeze, they have a droplet spread range of up to three feet. These droplets contain the bacteria that cause strep throat.
If you get these droplets on your hands and put them on your face, or the droplets land in your mouth, nose, or eyes, you can get an infection. Also, sharing a glass or utensils with someone who is sick is a way to spread the germs. Strep bacteria can also live on surfaces for a few hours after the initial contamination, and you can pick them up if you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hands by your mouth or nose.
Certain groups of people are at a higher risk for developing strep throat, and this could be a single time or multiple times throughout the year. Since this is a very common infection, there is already a slightly higher risk of developing it over other types of infections. However, the people who are at increased risk include:
- Children– Children between the ages of 5 and 15 are at the highest risk to develop strep throat. It’s also primarily a childhood medical condition, but adults do get it too.
- Adults Who Have Contact – If you’re an adult that has a job or environment that puts you in direct contact with children between the ages of 5 and 15, you’re at an increased risk.
- Environment – Places where there are larger groups of people have a higher risk of spreading it through the group. This includes places like daycares, schools, military training facilities, and hospitals.
One of the first symptoms of strep throat is a sore or scratchy throat. This is one of the main complaints you see, especially in children. Your throat may feel raw, and it can hurt every time you try to swallow. These symptoms typically come on very quickly, and it can take some people by surprise because they seem to just wake up with it. Common strep throat symptoms include:
- Appetite Loss – Since things usually don’t taste good and it can hurt to swallow, you may lose your appetite when you have strep throat. One of the signs that you’re getting better is your appetite returning.
- Fever– A fever is your body’s way of fighting off infections, and a fever of 101°F for more than a day or two is a common symptom of an infection. Your body raises the temperature to try and kill the bacteria.
- Headache– Congestion is common with strep throat, and dehydration is as well if it hurts to drink. Both of these things can lead to dull headaches that don’t go away.
- Nausea/Vomiting– When you’re sick, your body tries to send warning signs that you have something inside that shouldn’t be there. As a result, your body will forcefully expel anything to try and get rid of the bacteria.
- Rash – A rash usually goes side by side with a fever. It’s your immune system’s way of trying to defend your body against the strep throat bacteria.
- Red/Swollen Tonsils – The bacteria directly attacks your throat and tonsils. As a result, redness and inflammation typically occur until the bacteria dies.
- Stomach Ache – This goes with nausea and vomiting. Your body wants things out of your system, and a stomach ache can prevent you from eating or drinking and adding more things that could feed the bacteria.
- White Patches– If your sore throat progresses enough, you could see small puss-filled patches in your throat. This is the infection coming to the surface, and you’ll most likely need more rigorous treatment to heal it.
Fortunately, diagnosing strep throat is a relatively easy process. You start by having a consultation with a medical professional who will ask you to detail your symptoms. They’ll also look at your history to see if you have had strep throat previously, or if this is a chronic issue for you. Sometimes, they’ll go straight to an antibiotic, but they usually have you take one of two tests to determine for sure whether or not you have it. They include:
- Rapid Strep Test– Your physician will get a swab and take a sample of the back of your throat and your cheek cells to perform the rapid strep test. They usually hold down your tongue with a depressor as they take the sample because it can cause your gag reflex to kick in. They send this swab off to the lab, and the lab will give you results in around 20 minutes. If it’s positive, you’ll get antibiotics. If it’s negative, they may send it for another test.
- Throat Culture– The second test to check for the presence of the strep throat bacteria is a throat culture. They take the sample of throat and cheek cells and send it off to the lab. However, they then allow it to grow for two days to see if any strep bacteria appear. You’ll get your results within 48 to 72 hours.
The good news is that strep throat is very treatable with a round or two of antibiotics. They’re a group of drugs specially designed to kill bacteria like the bacteria that causes strep throat. They only work on bacteria, and they won’t be effective if you have a sore throat for a virus. Common antibiotics include:
- Azithromycin (Z-Pak)
- Cephalosporins (Keflex)
You’ll take these antibiotics between one and three times a day for 7 to 10 days. It’s essential that you continue to take the antibiotics until you finish your script for them. If you stop taking them because you feel better, you’re at risk for not killing all of the bacteria. This could result in a secondary infection of strep throat. There is also an injection you can get instead of oral antibiotics.
There are several easy things that you can do to prevent a case of strep throat from spreading to the rest of the household or to other children and adults. Prevention tips include:
- Keep your child home from school or daycare for 24 hours after they’ve had antibiotics and after fever breaks, the same goes for adults and the workplace
- Don’t share utensils or cups with someone who has a sore throat or someone who has a confirmed case of strep throat
- Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze, and wear a mask when you go out in public
- Practice good hand hygiene, and wipe down all of your infected surfaces with a bleach-based cleaner
Strep throat rarely goes away by itself, and it can result in serious complications if you don’t seek treatment and cure it with antibiotics. Complications can also happen if you have partially untreated strep throat due to not completing your full course of antibiotics. The possible complications include:
- Abscesses around your tonsils and behind your throat
- Glomerulonephritis (kidney disease)
- Meningitis (infection that spreads to your spinal canal and the lining of the brain)
- Otitis Media (infection in the ears that results in a ringing noise)
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Rheumatic Fever (damages the joints, heart, and brain)
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (very rare)
At Medek, our team of certified and professional medical staff are ready and willing to help diagnose and treat your strep throat quickly and easily. We offer our clients access to our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year via video consultation through their smartphones.
We’re the convenient and cost-effective alternative to visiting a traditional doctor’s office, and we give consultations and have prescriptions on the way in as little as 30 minutes. Additionally, we have a success rate of curing the ailment on the first visit 90% of the time.
It’s so easy to get started too! All you have to do is register for our service and sign in to your account. You can download the app and input your symptoms. Once you do this, you’ll get instantly connected to one of our staff. After the consult, you can choose your pharmacy and we’ll send your prescription. Contact us today to find out more!