Cold weather is here, and we all know what that means – ‘tis the season for sore and scratchy throats. Viruses are the most common cause of a sore throat. However, strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus (group A strep). People who are infected spread the bacteria by coughing or sneezing.
Generally, strep throat is a mild infection, but it is also known to be quite painful. The most common symptoms of strep throat include:
- Sore throat that can start very quickly
- Pain when swallowing
- Body aches
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
- Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
- Appetite loss
Children may also experience headaches, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or rash.
Strep throat is more common in children than in adults. It is rare in children under the age of 3, and it is most common in children ages 5 through 15. Adults who are frequently in contact with children and parents of school-aged children are also at an increased risk for strep throat.
Close contact with another person with strep throat is the most common risk factor for this illness. For example, if someone has strep throat, it often spreads to other people in their household, school, daycare, or workplace.
Antibiotics are prescribed to patients with strep throat. These antibiotics will prevent the bacteria from spreading to others as well as help the patient to feel better by reducing their symptoms.
Further complications can occur after a strep throat infection. These complications would be the result of the bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. Such complications can include:
- Abscesses (pockets of pus) around the tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Sinus infections
- Ear infections
- Rheumatic fever (a heart disease)
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (a kidney disease)
The best way to stop the spread of group A strep is to wash your hands often. This is especially important after coughing or sneezing and before preparing foods or eating. Here are some tips to remember:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not into your hands
- Place used tissues directly into a wastebasket
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available
As mentioned previously, antibiotics help prevent spreading the infection to others. With this being said, individuals with strep throat should stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have a fever, and until they have taken antibiotics as prescribed for at least 24 hours. If symptoms have not cleared up after 48 hours on a prescribed antibiotic, it is recommended that you call or revisit your doctor.
If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, please contact your Primary Care Provider or schedule an appointment at Hegg Health Center by calling 712-476-8100.