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Dealing with Strep Throat

  • Published: 2012-12-30 (Revised/Updated 2018-03-16) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Information symptoms and treatment information for Strep Throat a disease that causes a sore throat.
Strep Throat

Strep Throat is a disease that causes a sore throat (pharyngitis). It is an infection with a germ called Group A Streptococcus bacteria.

Strep throat is spread by person-to-person contact with fluids from the nose or saliva. It commonly spreads among family or household members.

Symptoms of strep throat usually get better in about 1 week. Untreated, strep can lead to serious complications.

Main Document

People who feel fine at one moment, then suddenly experience a throat that is sore, run a high fever, and find that all of their energy has vanished and feel very ill may have strep-throat. "Strep," stands for, "Streptococcus Pyrogenes," a common strain of bacteria that has the ability to live in a person's nose and throat for months at a time without causing them any harm. Tests have demonstrated that approximately 20% of people during winter months have the strep bug living in their mouths, nose, or throats without experiencing any symptoms whatsoever. These people are referred to as, "carriers," and do not spread strep germs and also do not need to be tested for or treated for strep.

On occasion, strep-throat bugs can turn on people who have been under too much stress, or who have an immune system that has been dealing with fights with viruses such as the common cold or the flu. A person may also pick up strep-throat from a person who has been infected. Despite the reason, the usually quiet strep-throat may suddenly begin to emit toxins and inflammatory substances and cause a person to experience a sore throat and additional symptoms.

While the soreness of strep-throat feels bad, it can be easily cured through administration of antibiotics such as erythromycin, penicillin, or clindamycin. One of the largest issues with strep-throat is getting people to pursue treatment. Fevers and sore throats are also symptoms of colds and the flu and strep-throat is many times mistaken for these illnesses.

Colds and the flu; however, usually take several days to develop and are caused by viruses. They are usually accompanied by a stuffy or runny nose, a cough, and a headache and go away on their own within a week. Strep-throat, on the other hand, usually shows up rapidly and without any other cold or flue symptoms and should be treated with antibiotics in order to prevent serious disease and to stop it from being spread to other people.

Strep-throat is not something that should be taken lightly. If it remains untreated it can be spread to others. It is also possible for strep-throat bacteria to spread to other tissues in a person's body and cause an abscess, or even a more serious infection. On rare occasion, untreated strep-throat may lead to heart damage from rheumatic fever. Untreated strep-throat can rapidly lead to a more severe form of illness such as rheumatic fever or acute nephritis, something that has the potential to damage a person's kidneys, and both of these illnesses may be fatal.

The symptoms of strep-throat commonly start within 2 to 5 days after a person has come into contact with someone who has a strep infection. Strep-throat usually goes away within 3 to 7 days with or without treatment with antibiotics. By contrast, if allergies or irritants are the cause of a sore throat it will often last longer unless the cause has been eliminated. If strep-throat is not treated with antibiotics, the infected person will continue to be contagious for 2 to 3 weeks, even if the symptoms disappear. A person is much less contagious within 24 hours of starting to take antibiotics and is less likely to develop the complications of a strep infection.

Throat Culture Testing

A, 'throat culture,' is a type of test to discover a fungal or bacterial infection in a person's throat. A sample swabbed from a person's throat is then placed into a cup that permits infections to grow. If an infection grows - the culture is declared, 'positive.' The type of infection is determined using a microscope, chemical testing, or both. If no infection grows - the culture is declared to be, 'negative.' Examples of the forms of infections that might be discovered through a throat culture may include the following:

If bacteria grows in the culture, additional testing may be performed to check which antibiotic will best treat the infection. The testing is referred to as, 'susceptibility,' or, 'sensitivity,' testing. The majority of sore throats are caused by an infection with a virus such as a cold or flu. Throat cultures are not performed for viral infections because it is very difficult to grow viruses; it is also very expensive to do so. A throat culture might be performed to:

Treating Strep Throat

People with strep-throat should drink extra fluids and increase the moisture in the air, it will keep their throat moist and help to keep mucus thin. It is also important for people with strep-throat to pursue the following:

Antibiotics and Strep Throat

Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for a strep-throat infection. They reduce the amount of time a person is contagious. A person with strep-throat is usually not contagious 24 hours after starting a course of antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment for strep-throat may also help to prevent some of the rare complications that are related to the strep infection itself, or the a person's immune response to the infection. Complications of strep-throat are rare, although they may happen, particularly if strep-throat remains untreated. Antibiotics can shorten the amount of time a person is ill.

Antibiotics might be administered in situations such as when a person has had a positive rapid strep test, a positive throat culture, or has had three or more of the following signs or symptoms:

It is possible for a person to carry the strep bacteria in their throat and not experience any symptoms. Antibiotics for people who do are usually not required, unless they have a history of rheumatic fever or frequently experience infections or infections frequently occur among their family members.

Complications of Strep Throat

Complications of strep-throat are rare but do happen, particularly of a person's throat infection remains untreated with antibiotics. Complications can happen when a strep infection spreads to other parts of a person's body and causes other infections such as a sinus or ear infection, or an abscess on their tonsils referred to as, 'peritonsillar abscess.' Complications may also result in a person's immune system attacking itself and causing serious conditions such as rheumatic fever.

Appropriate treatment of strep-throat can vastly reduce a person's risk of developing rheumatic fever and its complications. It is not yet clear whether or not treating a strep infection with antibiotics reduces a person's risk of developing inflammation of their kidneys referred to as, 'acute glomerulonephritis.' Even though the complications are rare, a strep infection may spread to other areas of a person's body and cause:

At times, a person's immune system will attack healthy tissues in response to a strep infection, causing complications such as rheumatic fever, inflammation of the person's kidneys, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). 'PANDAS' is a term that is used to describe what happens with some children who have symptoms of certain disorders that worsen after infections such as strep-throat or scarlet fever. The disorders whose symptoms worsen include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as well as tic disorders such as Tourette's syndrome. Even if antibiotic treatment is started as late as 9 days after the beginning of a strep infection it will prevent rheumatic fever.

Glomerulonephritis can occur after an infection with certain strains of strep bacteria. These infections can include a strep infection of the person's skin, such as impetigo, usually during the summer months, or the throat such as strep-throat, usually during the winter. The condition is fairly rare and goes away without treatment, although complications may develop that require treatment. Treatment of a strep infection might not prevent inflammation of a person's kidneys.

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