Strep Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Strep throat is a contagious disease caused by infection with streptococcal bacteria. It causes inflammation and swelling of the mucous membranes lining the back of the throat and the tonsils. The major symptoms of strep throat are throat pain and fever. Sneezing and coughing can spread the infection from one person to another.

Strep throat is most common in younger children, but it can affect children and adults of all ages. It is estimated that approximately 15% to 40% of cases of sore throat are caused by Streptococcal bacteria.

Causes

Strep throat is caused by the bacteria known as group A streptococcus. The streptococcal infection invades the pharyngeal tissue and causes a local inflammatory reaction of the throat and tonsils. Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious. They can spread through airborne droplets or through shared food or drinks.

There are some factors that can increase the risk of strep throat:

  • Age. Strep throat occurs most commonly in children.
  • Season. Strep throat tends to circulate in winter and early spring.

Symptoms

The severity of strep throat can vary from person to person. The symptoms of strep throat generally develop within five days of exposure to the bacteria. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Red, swollen tonsils
  • A fever of 101 F or higher
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
  • White patches in the throat
  • Tiny red spots around the mouth
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appetite loss

Diagnosis

To diagnose a strep throat, the doctor will first conduct a physical examination to check for signs and symptoms of strep throat. Besides, two kinds of tests may be ordered:

  • Rapid strep test. The doctor will use a cotton swab to take a sample from the back of the throat for checking. You can get the results in 20 minutes. If the test is positive, it means the strep is present. If the test is negative, which means the strep bacteria could not be found, the doctor might do a throat culture.
  • Throat culture. The doctor will rub a swab over the throat and tonsils to be sent to the lab. It usually takes about 2 days to get results. It can confirm whether the patient has strep throat or not.

Treatment

The most effective and common treatment for a strep throat is oral antibiotics. Antibiotics can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, as well as the risk of complications and the likelihood of infecting others. Mostly, the medical treatment lasts for about 10 days. It is necessary to take a complete course of medicines. Stopping the medicines too early can leave some bacteria alive, which make people sick again.

Besides, to relieve throat pain and reduce fever, you can try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.


Keywords: Strep throat.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.