Strep Throat Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

strep throat symptoms

There are times when your throat burns and you feel difficulty to swallow, but you may wonder how to treat it. You have heard of sore throat and strep throat, but you don’t know the difference between them. This article helps you to get an idea about strep throat symptoms, its causes, and treatment.

As a bacterial infection, strep throat is contagious and it can affect both children and adults of all ages.  If you suffer from this health condition, you need to consult a doctor without any delay. The reason is that infection can spread easily from person to person through coughing and sneezing.

Strep throat symptoms

A lot of people do not know the difference between a sore throat and a strep throat. Without getting an idea about both these conditions, it may be difficult for you to get the right strep throat treatment. The symptoms of this condition are different from sore throat and can treat easily with antibiotics.

The main symptoms of strep throat are:

  • A skin rash
  • White patches or spots on the throat or tonsils which are pus pockets
  • Dark red spots or splotches on the roof of your mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and tonsils
  • Trouble in swallowing
  • Sometimes high fever, vomiting, stomach ache and fatigue

Even if both sore throat and strep throat are painful, the latter gives you a worse burning sensation.  Both children and adults show the same symptoms when they suffer from strep throat. However, children are more prone to this health condition than adults. Its symptoms usually appear many days after its exposure to the bacteria.

Even if there are plenty of symptoms for sore throat, sometimes, people with this health condition may not show its signs. They may not feel any difficulty in this issue, but capable to spread the infection on to others.

Know more about strep throat

Group a Streptococcus (GAS) is the cause of strep throat, which lives in the tissues of the nose and throat.  This health condition got its name from the bacteria that cause it. Strep throat is a painful condition, and people who suffer from it consult a doctor immediately. Without proper medication and precautions, it can spread easily.

Strep throat symptoms include painful swallowing, swollen tonsils, and a sore throat. Even if it can affect people of all ages, children get affected more commonly. Children get affected when they interact with infected people at daycare centers or schools. Even after you treat this problem with proper medication, the infection can develop again

Usually, doctors suggest tests to the patient with the symptoms to diagnose, whether it is a sore throat or strep throat. From the tests, they can diagnose the health condition and the presence of the GAS bacteria. Your test may be positive at times when you are not suffering from strep throat. That means you are a carrier of this bacteria.

As said above, some people have symptoms of strep throat but diagnosed as not infected. At the same time, they are a carrier of GAS bacteria. In such cases, the cause of such symptoms is a virus instead of bacteria. Your doctor takes a careful look at those symptoms and your response to the antibiotic treatment for diagnosing.

Strep Throat

Causes of Strep throat

The main cause of strep throat is a bacterium known as Streptococcus Pyogenes which is highly contagious. Also known as group A Streptococcus, it can spread easily through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread if you share food and drinks with the infected person.

If anybody touches the surfaces where infected person touched previously, they get infected easily. Doorknobs, bathroom objects, kitchen utensils, glasses, are the common areas from where its bacteria spread. Even if strep throat is a painful condition and makes discomfort, it is not a serious health issue.

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Since the bodies of children and adolescents are not been exposed to bacteria, they are more susceptible to a sore throat. Their bodies have not built up immunity to withstand many bacteria and viruses and get infection easily. However, it is usual to have sore throats a few times in a year.

Lack of hygiene is one of the main strep throat causes. Although it is a contagious disease, kids and teens are more prone to this health issue. So, teach them the importance of handwashing, especially if they have infected themselves with strep throat already. Ensure not to share your food and drinks with anybody, to prevent the spreading of this health problem.

When to consult a doctor

You need to consult a doctor immediately if you have strep throat symptoms. A sore throat is one of the common symptoms of a strep throat and common cold, and such ill issues will resolve within a few days. But you should consult a doctor without any delay in the following situations:

  • If sore throat problems are frequent and do not respond to painkillers
  • Strep throat symptoms continue for more than two weeks
  • If you suffer from persistent fever. It may be an indication of strep throat and needs to treat immediately. A strep throat infection can cause breathing issues and sometimes lead to complications.
  • If you face breathing difficulties
  • Drinking fluids or swallowing saliva is difficult
  • Drooling regularly
  • For people whose immune system is weak like cancer and diabetic patients
  • If your urine becomes dark, it indicates that streptococcus bacteria has infected your kidneys already

How to diagnose Strep throat

If you are among those who have all the strep throat symptoms, then you should consult a doctor immediately. Your doctor will examine you and suggests tests if there is the presence of group A Streptococcus in your throat. Since strep throat and sore throat have almost the same symptoms, your doctor may find difficulty to diagnose it initially.

Your doctor will suggest a throat swab for the sore throat diagnosis. It is a laboratory test that takes approximately 20 minutes. If the rapid strep test is negative, they conduct a follow-up culture. It helps to confirm the presence of the strep throat bacteria. This follow-up test lasts for nearly two-three days to get the result.

Some infections caused by bacteria show worse symptoms than those by streptococcal bacteria. However, with the help of tests, a doctor can diagnose the real cause and treat the patient properly. Some of the common tests involve in strep throat diagnosis are:

  • Throat culture: It is for testing the presence of the strep throat causing bacteria. For this test, a swab rubs against the back of your throat and tonsils. Even if it is not a painful process, you may tickle when swab rubs your throat. You may also feel a gagging sensation during this test.
  • Rapid antigen test: The presence of the strep throat bacteria can detect within minutes by conducting this test. The lab technicians can detect it from the swab sample taken from your throat. They look for the antigens in the throat to diagnose this health condition.
  • Rapid DNA test: This is another common test involve checking the presence of group A Streptococcus bacteria. DNA technology uses to recognize strep throat infection.

Throat Culture

Treatment for strep throat

If you have all the usual symptoms of strep throat, you need to consult a doctor for treatment. Many people try home remedies initially to treat their sore throat. However, consult a doctor for strep throat treatment if your sore throat with white patches lasts longer than two or three days.

From the throat culture and other tests, a doctor can diagnose whether you have a strep throat infection or not. If you are positive about this health condition, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Proper medication helps to reduce your strep throat symptoms. Aside, you will not spread the infection to others once you started taking antibiotics.

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Treatment on time helps not only to recover from the infection but also lower the chances of complications. Penicillin is the best medicine for the treatment of strep throat. Many health experts think that this antibiotic is safe and effective to treat strep throat. Apart from that this medicine is inexpensive.

Penicillin is allergic to some people, and your physician can suggest other antibiotics for you if you are also allergic to it. You can recover from strep throat and all its symptoms with proper medication. You may feel better, even within four days of treatment. However, ensure to complete all the medicine to avoid further complications.

In most of the cases, children get treated with amoxicillin instead of penicillin to treat strep throat. Some home remedies or OTC medication can also treat strep throat. But make sure to consult a doctor to treat your strep throat infection.

Since strep throat is a bacterial infection, consult a doctor for treatment than trying traditional remedies.  Your doctor prescribes antibiotics for immediate recovery and controls the spread of the infection. Several types of strep throat antibiotics are available like penicillin and amoxicillin to treat this problem. Just make sure you know what to use and treat yourself immediately.

Potential complications related to strep throat

Strep throat gives you discomfort, but it can treat easily. However, if you do not treat this infection on time, it may lead to several complications. These complications are rare but have chances to reoccur if it not treated properly with antibiotics. It can even affect the immune system of your body.

Although rare, some of the complications related to this health condition are:

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Glomerulonephritis – a kidney disease
  • Otitis media (an infection that spreads to the middle ear)
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Abscess formation around the tonsils

Abscess formation around the tonsils

Untreated or not-properly treated strep throat can lead to several complications. Formation of an abscess behind the throat is one such health condition that causes pain in your throat and neck area. It also causes difficulty in swallowing and breathing issues. During such situations, consult an ENT specialist to drain the abscesses.

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder is another complication that you may face if your strep throat infection does not treat properly. It is also a difficult health condition related to the strep throat bacteria but occurs in children.

Rheumatic fever

Another potential complication that you will face if you do not treat strep throat is rheumatic fever. If the strep throat infection is not properly treated, the bacteria will remain in the tonsils and cause rheumatic fever. Besides, it causes a permanent immune response from your body. People who suffer from rheumatic fever also suffer arthritis and heart valve issues.

Some home strep throat remedies

Without antibiotics, it is difficult to treat strep throat completely. Some home remedies help you to get relief from strep throat symptoms. Some of these remedies that you can try are:

  • You can make gargling water mixture by adding half a spoon of salt into a cup of water
  • Drinking warm liquids like tea or lemon water
  • Sucking throat lozenges
  • Use cold liquids to numb the throat

Key points on strep throat infection:

  • The main cause of this painful health condition is group A streptococcus bacteria
  • These bacteria are extremely contagious.
  • Its diagnosis usually involves a throat swab.
  • Strep throat affects children more than adults. The reason is they have such an immune system that has minimum experience of germs.

Strep throat occurs mainly in children and treats it immediately to avoid further complications. You can try some home remedies like drinking warm liquids if you find usual strep throat symptoms. Children are more prone to this health condition and call your doctor immediately if your child has this problem.

You feel better, and usual symptoms will disappear once you start to take antibiotics. However, take medicine as your doctor prescribes. Otherwise, the harmful bacteria remain inside your throat, and all symptoms can appear again. Take the strep throat antibiotics as prescribed to prevent other related health issues like rheumatic fever and blood infections.

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