A sore throat is a common affliction. You may experience a sore throat as a symptom of a cold, the flu, or another type of virus. You may also get a sore throat even when you are not ill. For instance, allergies can give you sore throats (and other cold symptoms). Other irritants can also leave you with a sore throat.
In most cases, the sore throat is not a cause for concern. You feel uncomfortable for a couple of days, and then your sore throat goes away and you feel better. Or, you take allergy medications or remove yourself from the irritant, and your sore throat gradually resolves itself. However, every year, upwards of 11 million people come down with a more severe infection that also presents itself as a sore throat. Called strep throat, this infection involves the rapid growth of a particular kind of bacteria in your throat.
While strep throat in and of itself is not particularly serious (though it is particularly painful), it can lead to very serious complications. As a result, it needs to be taken seriously and treated promptly in order to prevent complications and long term health problems.
Fortunately, here in the United States, strep throat is relatively easy to diagnose and to treat. When caught and dealt with early, you can make a complete recovery within a very short period of time. The ability to get treated early also means that very few people end up suffering from strep throat complications. Plus, getting diagnosed with strep throat usually involves just a few minutes of time and a very fast and painless test. As a result, the best strategy, if you have a sore throat accompanied by a fever, is to see your doctor in order to get it tested and treated right away.
However, in order to know when to get your throat looked at, you need to understand what strep is and what its symptoms are. And, in order to treat it appropriately, you need to know what your options are and how the doctor might go about diagnosing and dealing with your strep. You may even find it helpful to learn about home remedies for strep throat that can alleviate your symptoms as you wait for the course of treatments from your doctor to work.
As a result, what follows is a detailed look at strep throat: What it is, what its symptoms are, how to deal with it, when to see a doctor, what to expect at a visit, possible treatments you will undergo, home treatments to try, and more. By familiarizing yourself with this information, you can become more prepared to deal with strep throat if it should make its appearance in your own life (and body).
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What is strep throat?
Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by the Group A streptococcus bacteria (this is different from the Group B strep for which women are tested when they are pregnant). For one reason or another, the bacteria take up residence in the throat and begin to multiply rapidly. Their presence is indicated by a wide variety of symptoms, the most common of which are a fever and a very bad sore throat. Because strep throat is caused by a type of bacteria, it is different from the sore throats caused by viruses. It can appear separate from any other signs of illness (such as the cold or the flu). It is not related to the sore throat caused by allergens and irritants. And, unlike many other types of sore throat, it is very treatable.
What is the strep throat treatment?
Once you or your child have been diagnosed with strep throat, you will need to be treated in order to successfully fight off the infection and avoid complications. The most common treatment for strep throat is antibiotics. In particular, the three most common antibiotics used to treat strep throat are amoxicillin, penicillin, and cephalexin. Typically, amoxicillin or penicillin will be prescribed, unless there is an allergy to those medications. In that case, cephalexin is often prescribed instead.
You can expect to take this medication for anywhere from 7 to 10 days. You will also need to take your antibiotic multiple times a day (sometimes you will only need to take it twice a day, but more commonly you will need to take it 3-4 times a day.). The reason for these multiple doses is to keep a steady level of antibiotic in your system in order to prevent the strep bacteria from having a chance to grow back before they have all been killed off by the antibiotic.
As discussed earlier, it is very important that you complete your full course of antibiotics. You will probably feel better within a few days. You may even feel as if you are completely back to normal. However, if you stop taking your antibiotic early, you may find that the bacteria were not all killed off. By stopping your antibiotic, you give the bacteria a chance to grow back and give you strep throat again.
Similarly, you may occasionally find that your strep throat does not clear up during a course of antibiotics. If you are not feeling better within a couple of days (usually 48-72 hours), you may have been given the wrong dosage of antibiotic, or the antibiotic may not be strong enough to fight off the strep throat. As a result, you should always go back to your doctor if your strep throat does not feel better within a few days. They can give you a stronger dosage or a different type of antibiotic in order to help clear up your strep throat once and for all.
While you are waiting for your antibiotic to take effect, you may also want to consider using over the counter medications to relieve the symptoms of your strep throat. While your doctor can give you a more complete list of the kinds of medications to try, adults can take ibuprofen or Tylenol, throat sprays to numb the throat, and/or lozenges to help alleviate the sore throat. Children should only take Tylenol, unless you are directed to give them children’s ibuprofen in a certain dosage.
Are there any home remedies for strep throat?
If you want to begin alleviating the symptoms of your strep throat before you go to the doctor, or if you want to hasten the healing of your strep throat while waiting for your antibiotics to take effect, there are a number of strep throat remedies for adults that you can try. These remedies may not succeed in entirely eliminating your strep throat. However, they should help to alleviate your symptoms and hasten your body’s healing. In addition to taking medicine for your strep throat, consider using one of the following suggestions to get strep throat relief:
Gargle with salt water
If you are looking for strep throat relief, try mixing a little bit of salt with warm water. Then, pour it into your mouth and swish it around. Make sure to get it in the back of you throat as well. This home remedy for strep throat has been proven to work to alleviate the symptoms of strep throat. It is thought to be effective because the salt draws water (and bacteria) out of your throat. Your swelling and discomfort decrease as a result.
As mentioned above, you may also be able to get relief from your strep throat symptoms by taking over the counter pain medications. These medications can include lozenges, ibuprofen, and/or Tylenol. You can even alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen every four hours if you need to in order to keep your fever and pain levels down. Just make sure that you only take the recommended doses of these medications. Taking more than is suggested will cause you serious health problems.
Drink lots of fluids.
Another of the home remedies for strep throat is to drink lots of fluids. These fluids can be anything, from milk to water to tea. However, warm beverages not only hydrate you but also help to relieve some of the pain caused by strep throat. Therefore, warm milk, hot tea, and so forth make the best medicine for strep throat if you are looking to treat it with fluids. Lemon, honey, and certain herbs can even help to alleviate your symptoms, as well as keep you hydrated. You can also opt for very cold liquids, such as ice cream, instead of warm beverages if you feel like it. The key is to choose fluids that will keep you hydrated while also helping your throat to feel better.
Without a doubt, the best home remedy for strep throat is rest. Sleeping and taking it easy allows your body to use its energy for healing and fighting off the strep throat bacteria. As a result, get as much rest as you can. Since strep is contagious, you will need to stay home from work or school anyway. You might as well spend that time sleeping, napping, reading quietly, or watching television. The rest will speed up your recovery and get you back to your normal life more quickly.
Use a humidifier
A humidifier adds moisture to the air. This moisture is then breathed in while you are near the humidifier. The result is that you do not suffer the added discomfort of a dry throat, allowing you to feel a little bit better as you wait for the strep throat to clear up.
How can you get rid of strep throat naturally?
There are some people who believe that you can not only find strep throat relief by following strep throat home remedies, but that you can also get rid of strep throat naturally. This sometimes leads some people to avoid antibiotics altogether and, instead, to use natural strep throat remedies. There are a number of anecdotal reports of people beating back strep throat without the use of antibiotics. However, before you try any of these home remedies for strep throat, you need to keep in mind that antibiotics are the medical community’s universal treatment for this infection. Taking antibiotics promptly can help you to avoid the sometimes serious complications that strep throat can cause. As a result, if you decide to try to get rid of strep throat naturally, you may want to do it in conjunction with a trip to the doctor, or resolve to see the doctor if the natural remedies do not begin to work within a few days. Following are a few of the ways in which you might be able to get rid of strep throat naturally:
Mix cayenne pepper and raw honey
Combine a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper and as much honey as you like. You can add some garlic too if you like. Take this mixture every half an hour for as long as your symptoms last.
Use plain cayenne pepper.
If you do not want to use a cayenne pepper mixture, you can try plain cayenne pepper. You can either mix the pepper with water or use it plain. Putting it on the back of your throat can help to alleviate symptoms and hasten healing.
Another strep throat home remedy is to take plenty of Vitamin C. This vitamin, taken regularly, can help to prevent many illnesses. However, if you take about 1,000 mg a day while you have strep throat, it can also help you to defeat the strep throat more quickly.
Gargle with apple cider vinegar.
Instead of gargling with salt water, you can try gargling with apple cider vinegar three times a day. Use the apple cider vinegar and the cayenne/honey mixture together until your symptoms begin to disappear. Then, you may try just gargling with the apple cider vinegar until you feel that you are completely back to normal.
If you decide to try a home remedy for strep throat, one of the following products might be able to help. One is a spray and one is a tea. Each of them is specifically designed to help you defeat strep more quickly and alleviate the symptoms of the illness more effectively. Following is an overview of these products.
This homeopathic throat spray is designed to serve as replacement for other sore throat sprays (such as Cepacol). It is not designed as permanent cure, but instead to help take care of symptoms for a short period of time. It works because of its bacteria-fighting ingredients. These include olive leaf extract, baptisia tinctoria, and xylitol. These ingredients help to not only minimize the symptoms of the strep throat but also to kill the bacteria in your throat. This spray also provides a more natural solution than other throat sprays: Its ingredients are one hundred percent natural. Because the spray meets the FDA’s standards, it is also a trustworthy source of a natural treatment for strep throat.
This spray can safely be used up to 4 times a day. You can use it every 2-3 hours for a sore throat, or once a day if you want to prevent illness during times of year such as the fall and the winter. It also boasts a large number of positive reviews from people who have used it and found that it lives up to its promises. Reviewers report using this spray for many types of throat irritations. These include things as simple as a cough or mild sore throat, and as severe as colds and other illnesses.
In addition, this product makes a good choice to use, because it can be used preventatively. This means you can use it as soon as you feel a cold or sore throat coming on, or even before you get sick, if you are going on a plane ride or simply want to avoid getting sick in the winter. The fact that spray meets FDA standards means that you can trust it to be a safe spray alternative to less natural choices. The reliability and safety of this throat spray, combined with its natural ingredients, make it a good choice. Some reviewers also report that the spray tastes so good that children are happy to take it. The result is an all-natural, high quality way to get sore throat relief.
This organic herbal tea can make keeping your fluid levels up easy when you have strep throat. It is one of many herbal teas you can try when you are suffering from strep throat. However, unlike those other teas, this one is designed to coat your throat instead of simply providing you with a warm liquid. The result is a more soothing experience than that provided by many other types of herbal teas.
This particular kind of tea is made with slippery elm. This is the inner bark of the red elm tree that the company collects from the Midwest. It feels slippery to the touch, while it also feels slippery when you are drinking it. As a result, this bark makes it easier for the tea to coat your throat and alleviate your sore throat symptoms.
The bark is combined with licorice and marshmallow root to improve the flavor and the positive effects of the tea. While the licorice can present a relatively minor health risk to anyone who has low potassium, its presence in the tea makes it sweeter and more appealing to many people who choose to drink it.
These effects include a wonderful flavor that is described as silky and earthy. In addition, the flavor comes with the ability to, as its name suggests, coat your throat to alleviate the symptoms of sore or strep throat. As a result, it can help to reduce the pain in your throat and provide you with strep throat relief.
This tea receives high praise from reviewers for both its flavor and its effectiveness. While some say that flavor needs a little getting used to, many others praise it for being very tasty. For many reviewers, it is their go-to tea whenever they have a sore throat or begin to lose their voice. They claim that it alleviates discomfort, and makes it easier to sing and to speak. Combined with the high quality of the ingredients, this tea provides a great option for many strep and sore throat sufferers.
What are the strep throat symptoms?
Strep throat can cause a number of symptoms. Some of these mimic the symptoms of other illnesses (such as a cold), while others are relatively unique and unmistakable. You may experience some symptoms and not others, or your symptoms may run the whole gamut. Adults and children can also experience slightly different sets of symptoms.
One of the best ways to catch strep throat early so you can be diagnosed and treated is to be aware of the potential symptoms. Once you know what the strep throat symptoms are, you can more easily recognize them in yourself. By understanding how strep throat symptoms differ between adults and children, you can also become better equipped to recognize the signs of potential strep throat in your children, even if their symptoms are not exactly like those an adult would have. Following is a list of some of both the most common and less common signs of strep throat in adults, followed by a list of the strep throat symptoms children might experience:
Signs of Strep Throat in Adults:
A sore throat is one of the first signs of strep throat for many adults (and children). As the bacteria multiply in your throat, they cause inflammation that leads to the classically severe pain in your throat.
When you are comparing a sore throat vs. strep throat, you should notice a difference in the intensity of the discomfort you experience. The sore throat caused by strep is typically very severe, much more painful than a regular sore throat. In fact, it is common for the discomfort to be so great that you can neither eat nor drink because of how much pain those actions cause.
In addition, when comparing a sore throat vs. strep throat, look for the suddenness with which the sore throat appears. A strep sore throat comes on suddenly, without any warning.
Finally, the sore throat that accompanies strep throat is often not accompanied by any other cold symptoms (or those symptoms are very mild). The reason is that strep is an infection on its own, and not simply a result of a virus from a cold or the flu. As a result, it is possible to have strep without any other illness or symptoms.
Another sign of strep throat in adults is difficulty swallowing. This difficulty can be caused by the swelling of the tonsils that often occurs with strep throat. It can also be caused by the pain, as mentioned above, that a strep sore throat causes. You might also experience a general loss of appetite that can leave food looking unappetizing. Regardless, having trouble eating and drinking is one of the classic signs that your sore throat might be more than just a cold virus.
Another distinguishing hallmark of strep throat is a fever. More specifically, strep throat usually causes a fever that is higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. You can get both a sore throat and a fever with cold viruses. However, the fever generally remains low grade. When it exceeds 101 degrees Fahrenheit, the combination of sore throat and fever become indicators of possible strep throat.
Swollen Tonsils and Lymph Nodes
Another one of the signs of strep throat in adults is swelling of the tonsils and of the lymph nodes in the neck. This swelling, as mentioned above, can make it difficult to swallow. In addition, your tonsils will probably be very red from the inflammation caused by the bacterial infection.
Spotting on the Throat
Strep throat is also usually accompanied by spotting on the throat. Classically, this spotting is white, although it can also be yellowish. Spotting on the throat is, in fact, so common with strep throat that it is the number one sign that doctors look for when considering whether you have a sore throat vs. strep throat. The spots are usually found along the back of the throat and on the tonsils.
Dark Red Spots on Mouth
While white or yellowish spots on the throat are very common strep throat symptoms, your strep throat might also include dark red spots. These usually appear toward the upper back portion of your mouth. As a result, if you see spots of any kind along with a sore throat, it is wise to consult a doctor to determine whether or not you have strep throat.
Headache, Nausea, Vomiting
Oddly enough, you may also find yourself with a headache, nausea, and/or vomiting if you have strep throat. Many people do not realize that these are strep throat symptoms and may chalk them up to having a virus. However, they are actually relatively common occurrences in people with strep, and the combination of sore throat, headache, and belly ache is sometimes used by doctors in determining whether or not somebody has strep throat.
In untreated or severe cases of strep throat, the infection can become scarlet fever. In these cases, you will experience a rough, sandpaper-like rash that gradually spreads over your entire body. A related complication, rheumatic fever, can cause a smooth rash over your body. If you ever experience a rash and sore throat, or a rash after having had a sore throat, you will need to consult with a doctor right away to determine if you have/had strep and whether or not you developed any complications from the infection.
Signs of Strep Throat in Kids:
Because children are younger than adults and are still developing, they sometimes present different symptoms for illnesses than adults do. Plus, because younger children, such as infants and toddlers, cannot yet communicate effectively, they may have a hard time telling you about certain symptoms (such as throat pain). You have to figure out what they are experiencing by looking for other symptoms and by observing their behavior.
As a result, the strep throat symptoms in kids are slightly different from the signs of strep throat in adults. Here are some of the signs of strep throat in kids:
In a child who is old enough to talk, a sore throat is often possible to identify because they will tell you about it. This sore throat will present in the same way in children as in adults: Severe pain, sudden onset, and accompanied by few, if any cold symptoms.
Strep throat in toddlers and strep throat in babies also causes a sore throat. However, in children this age, it might be more difficult to identify the source of their pain because they cannot communicate as clearly. However, they may show signs of pain in other ways, such as by refusing to eat, being fussy, pointing to their throats, and so forth. Observation on your part should be able to tell you whether or not they are experiencing throat pain.
The pain from the sore throat and swollen tonsils and lymph nodes can make swallowing difficult for children who have strep, just as it does for adults. However, toddler strep throat and infant strep throat can both present difficulty swallowing as a refusal to eat and drink. If they do not yet speak, their unwillingness to eat may be your only sign that they are finding it difficult or painful to swallow, or that they are experiencing a loss of appetite. Strep throat in babies can often present as them refusing their bottle or refusing to nurse.
A high fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit is also one of the signs of strep throat in kids. If this fever accompanies a sore throat in your child (or a refusal to eat, or other signs of pain), then you need to see a doctor about the possibility that your child has strep throat.
Swollen Tonsils and Lymph Nodes
Redness or swelling of the tonsils and swelling of the lymph nodes can occur in children who have strep.
Spotting on the Throat
In children, the spotting on the throat is much the same as that which occurs in adults who have strep throat. In particular, you might notice white or yellowish patches on the back of their throat. This classic sign of strep throat makes it relatively easy to determine if your child needs to see a doctor for their sore throat.
Red Spots on the Mouth
Red spots on the mouth are another sign of strep throat that can occur in both adults and children. These spots typically appear in the upper back of the mouth and are dark red. If you see these, they should also alert you to the fact that your child may have strep throat.
Headache, Nausea, Vomiting
In children especially, stomach discomfort may be present with strep throat. In particular, strep throat may present with lower abdominal pain that can look a bit like appendicitis. In fact, doctors will sometimes test for strep if they are trying to rule out appendicitis in a child with acute lower stomach pains. If your child is exhibiting stomach pain along with other symptoms of strep throat, you may want to consider the possibility that they are suffering from strep throat.
Inflamed Taste Buds
One of the signs of strep throat in kids is a tongue that contains red, inflamed taste buds. This often referred to as strawberry tongue because of the appearance it gives the tongue. Strawberry tongue is most often present in children who are suffering from a complication of strep throat called scarlet fever.
As with adults, children can have a rash along with their strep throat. This can be a sandpaper-like rash such as that caused by rheumatic fever, or a smooth rash such as that caused by scarlet fever. These rashes can also sometimes appear after the strep throat has cleared up. In either case, it is a symptom of complications from the strep throat and should alert you to seek medical attention for your child right away.
Muscle Aches and Joint Stiffness
Adults often have a generalized sense of illness that accompanies strep. For children, this sense of sickness can present as muscle aches and joint stiffness.
While strep throat is often not accompanied by cold symptoms in adults, it can be accompanied by nasal congestion in children.
A sore throat along with neck pain can be one of the signs of strep throat in kids. This neck pain is likely due to the intensity of discomfort that strep throat creates in the neck and throat area.
Children often struggle to sleep when they are sick. It is no different with strep throat. Strep throat in infants and strep throat in toddlers, as well as strep throat in older kids, can cause them to have trouble sleeping. The pain they are in makes it difficult for them to relax into sleep and stay asleep. In children who are too young to talk, this sleeplessness might be one of the few ways they have of telling you that they are in pain.
Strep throat in babies and strep throat in toddlers is also often accompanied by irritability. They are in pain, and they do not understand why, so they act grumpy throughout the day. When sleeplessness and irritability combine with other symptoms (such as a high fever, stomach complaints, etc.), you should consider the possibility that they are suffering from strep throat.
Does strep throat cause a cough or cold symptoms?
In short, the answer to this question is no, strep throat does not cause a cough or cold symptoms. Many people mistakenly believe that strep throat is caused by or accompanies a cold or flu virus. The truth, however, is that strep is separate from a cold or the flu and often comes without the symptoms of these illnesses (such as a runny nose, cough, etc.).
Instead, strep throat is caused by a particular type of bacteria whose effects on the body do not usually include a strep throat cough, congestion, runny nose, and so forth. In fact, there is some indication that it is safe to dismiss strep throat as a possibility if a patient has a cough along with a sore throat. While you should still see a doctor if you have certain symptoms (such as a severe sore throat), your chances of having strep throat decrease as the intensity of your cough or other cold symptoms increases.
Can you have strep throat without a fever?
As mentioned above, a fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit is one of the first signs of strep throat, and one of the symptoms used to diagnose the condition. However, is it possible to have strep throat without a fever (or with a low grade fever)? The answer is yes. Typically, strep throat without a fever is mild strep throat that has not had time to become severe strep throat with an accompanying temperature spike.
However, a lack of a high fever is a rarity when it comes to strep throat. If you have a low-grade fever or no fever, you probably do not have strep throat. Only consider the possibility of strep throat without the presence of a high fever if you experience some of the other symptoms of the illness, particularly difficulty swallowing and spots on your throat, or if your sore throat does not resolve within a few days. Below are some of the signs you should look for when deciding whether or not to go to the doctor for a sore throat.
Can you have a severe sore throat that is not strep?
A severely sore throat is one of the first signs of strep and is also one of the most common signs. However, can you have a severe sore throat that is not strep? The answer is yes. Some viruses, reflux, allergies, and so forth, can create bad sore throats that are not strep. That is why it can be difficult to diagnose strep throat without a doctor’s visit and strep test.
However, any time you have a severe sore throat, you should consider the possibility of strep, especially if this sore throat comes with other symptoms of strep (such a fever or white spots on the throat). Always consult a doctor if you meet any of the criteria listed below. Do not ignore a severe sore throat simply because you think it might not be strep.
What are the first signs of strep throat?
Sometimes, the first signs of strep throat include a rash that signals the presence of strep- induced scarlet fever. However, more often, the first signs of strep throat that you will experience include the fever and sore throat themselves. Once you have those symptoms, you may begin to experience other symptoms, such as the headaches, upset stomach, increasing pain in your throat, spots on your throat and the back of your mouth, and so forth. However, anytime you have a persistent sore throat, fever that will not go away, or other symptoms that do not resolve, contact your doctor.
What does strep throat look like?
As mentioned above, strep throat is often accompanied by white or yellowish spots in the throat, and/or dark or bright red spots toward the back of the mouth. However, you may wonder what these spots look like and when to know if it is strep throat or simply irritation from a sore throat caused by other things such as allergies, irritants, or a virus.
The white spots in your throat might look like spots. If you are suffering from severe strep throat, however, they might look like patches along your throat instead. The same goes for the spotting in the back of your mouth. Sometimes, the strep throat spots will present as pus-filled areas near your tonsils. If you see any unusual spotting or coloration in your throat when you have a sore throat (especially if it is accompanied by a fever), you should consult a doctor in order to get tested for strep.
What is the incubation period for strep throat?
The incubation period of an illness refers to how long it takes after your exposure to the illness for the illness to start showing itself in your body. The period of time until you begin to experience the first signs of strep throat is usually 2-5 days. On average, you will have 3 days before you begin to exhibit symptoms of the illness.
How long are you contagious with strep throat?
Strep throat is a contagious infection that is easily spread between people. The exact way in which it spreads between any two people can vary. In addition, if you do not receive treatment, you can be contagious with strep throat for a long time—up to 2 or 3 weeks. This gives you plenty of time to spread your infection to others. That is one reason that prompt medical treatment is so important when you have strep: You want to get over the infection and stop being contagious as soon as possible. Once you are on antibiotics, you cease being contagious within about 24 hours. Usually, this means that children can resume school (if they feel up to it) after 24 hours of being on antibiotics; you can go back to work, etc. However, always consult with your doctor to find out for sure when the best time is for you or your children to return to work and school. Your doctor can advise you on what will help you to heal the fastest and help you to minimize the risk of getting others sick.
How does strep throat affect pregnancy?
During pregnancy, illnesses you experience may cause you extra concern because you may worry that the illness will hurt your unborn child in some way. However, in the case of strep, you have little to worry about. The truth is that the bacteria that causes strep throat should not pass to your baby, even if you are suffering from the infection yourself.
The only aspect of strep throat during pregnancy that should concern you is the fever that often accompanies this infection. Fevers above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (when taken rectally or in the ear) can potentially harm an unborn baby. The fever can interrupt the baby’s proper development (particularly in the first trimester), and lead to miscarriage or birth defects.
However, these instances of babies being harmed by fevers in their mothers are relatively rare. If you can get your fever down with Tylenol, and get yourself treated promptly, you should have no concerns about the health of your baby. Plus, any fever carries the same risk for pregnant women. There is nothing more or less dangerous about a fever that occurs as a result of strep throat during pregnancy.
Is Group B strep the same thing as strep throat?
One reason that strep throat during pregnancy may alarm some women is because they confuse strep throat with Group B strep. Group B strep is a bacteria for which pregnant women are tested about a month before their due date. If they carry this bacteria, they can pass it on to their child during birth, and their child can become very ill. Women who have Group B strep must be transfused with antibiotics during labor in order to prevent illness in their child.
However, Group B strep is different from the Group A strep which causes strep throat. Group B strep is present in the vaginal area of some women, while Group A strep takes up residence in the throat. Group B strep can be passed along to unborn children, while Group A strep does not get passed to the pregnant woman’s child. There is no extra treatment needed for strep throat during pregnancy other than the usual treatment of a round of antibiotics. As a result, do not allow strep throat to alarm you: Simply get yourself diagnosed and treated as promptly as possible.
Is it dangerous to take antibiotics for strep throat during pregnancy?
Another concern you might have about strep throat during pregnancy is the effect of the antibiotics on your unborn child. Most pregnant women know that certain medications (such as aspirin) can harm their unborn children and should not be taken during pregnancy. You may fear that the antibiotics commonly used to treat strep throat (amoxicillin, penicillin, and cephalexin) may also harm your unborn child.
However, the truth is that these three antibiotics in particular (and many antibiotics in general) have never been shown in tests to present any danger to unborn children. At worst, cephalexin has only limited information about its effects on unborn children. Plus, your doctor should know about the various risks related to each medication they prescribe. They will not prescribe you a medication that presents an undue risk to your child.
If these reassurances are not enough to encourage you to talk to your doctor about your sore throat, consider this: Having a healthy mother is one of the most important things a baby needs. As a result, taking antibiotics so you can return to a healthy state can actually be the best possible thing you can do for your baby.
If you ever do have questions about strep throat during pregnancy, or about the treatment prescribed to you, do not hesitate to discuss those concerns with your doctor or ob-gyn. They can help you to talk through your concerns and evaluate all of the potential risks so you can make the best decision possible for you and your child.
How can you get strep throat?
Even though strep throat is caused by a single kind of bacteria, it can be transmitted in a number of ways. In fact, strep throat is very contagious. Any time you come into contact with the bacteria, regardless of the way in which that contact occurrs, you run the risk of coming down with strep throat.
The first way you can get strep throat is by inhaling the bacteria in the air. For example, if someone with strep throat coughs or sneezes, you can catch the illness by breathing in the bacteria as it flies through the air. The bacteria-laden droplets or particles then enter your body and may take root in your throat, leaving you ill with strep throat.
Alternatively, you can get strep throat by touching a surface that has the bacteria on it. For example, if someone with strep throat has the bacteria on their hands (from, say, coughing), and opens a door, and you come behind them and touch the door handle too, the bacteria can transfer to your hands. If you have a cut or opening on your hands, the bacteria may get into your body that way. If you touch your mouth or eyes, the bacteria can get into your body through those openings as well. You may then become ill with strep.
Finally, you can get strep throat by sharing food or drinks with someone who has strep throat. For example, if you split a milkshake with your significant other, and they have strep throat, you may end up catching strep throat as well. As a result, if someone you know has strep throat, you may be wise to avoid contact with them as much as possible until they have ceased to be contagious. Similarly, avoiding others when you have strep throat is also wise if you wish to keep from spreading the illness to those around you.
Can you get recurrent strep throat?
Strep throat is often a one-time ordeal. You become ill, feel miserable for a few days, visit the doctor, take your antibiotics, feel better, and get on with your life. However, for some people, their illness keeps coming back. This recurrent strep throat can be hugely uncomfortable and intrusive, because they have to continue taking time off from work and school, going to the doctor, and suffering from the pain and discomfort of strep.
Recurrent strep throat is defined as strep throat that reappears several times in one year. There are thee main reasons for recurrent strep throat:
Recurrent strep throat could actually be one strep throat infection that is not clearing up. The reason for this persistent infection is sometimes an ineffective antibiotic that is not entirely eliminating the illness. As a result, you may experience an alleviation of symptoms, but, as soon as you are finished with the antibiotic, the bacteria that was not killed come right back again and make you miserable. There are a few reasons that your antibiotic might not be working the way it should:
- Your antibiotic may be ineffective because you are suffering from an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This means that the bacteria is naturally built to resist the effects of the antibiotic, and, as a result, not all of the bacteria are being killed by the antibiotic.
- You might also be getting recurrent strep throat because you have an allergy to the antibiotic that reduces the medication’s effectiveness.
- You may even be suffering from an incorrect dosage of antibiotic that is not sufficient to kill the strep throat bacteria in your mouth and throat.
- Of course, another reason your antibiotic may not be working is a failure to finish the antibiotic. You may feel better after the first few days on an antibiotic. However, finishing your antibiotic course is essential if you are going to successfully beat back the strep. Otherwise, you risk not killing all of the bacteria and suffering from recurrent strep throat when the remaining bacteria grow back after you quit your antibiotics.
- You may also be suffering from recurrent strep throat because you have developed a tolerance to a particular antibiotic. In some people, the bacteria that normally reside in the throat (and that do not cause illness) can counteract the effects of the antibiotic and make it ineffective at getting rid of your strep throat. A different antibiotic may be necessary to overcome this tolerance.
Weak Immune System
You may also be experiencing recurrent strep throat because you have a weakened immune system. A weak immune system can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections of all kinds, including strep throat. As a result, you may get strep throat over and over again simply because your body is not able to resist it.
A weak immune system can be the result of many things. For example, medical treatments for cancer (such as chemotherapy), other diseases (such as HIV), and certain medications (such as corticosteroids) can all weaken your immune system. Some people are also simply born with a weaker immune system than are others. As a result, your body may simply not be able to fight off the strep bacteria by itself, and you end up getting strep throat over and over again.
Exposure to a Strep Carrier
A third possible cause of recurrent strep throat is exposure to a strep carrier. This means that you are regularly around somebody who is a carrier for strep throat. A carrier is someone who has the strep bacteria in their throat but who does not show any symptoms of the disease. Often, they are unaware that they have the bacteria in their bodies, because they do not have any symptoms. Instead, they inadvertently pass the disease on to others, including you, if you are around them quite a bit. As a result, you may be beating back your strep throat, only to be exposed to it and become ill over and over again thanks to the strep carrier in your life.
Being a Strep Carrier
Just as you may experience recurrent strep throat because you are around a strep carrier, so you may experience what you think is recurrent strep throat because you are yourself a strep carrier. As mentioned above, strep carriers have the strep bacteria in their throats all the time. However, the bacteria does not cause symptoms of strep throat. Instead, these people have the ability to pass strep throat on to others.
In addition, however, strep carriers will also test positive for strep throat whenever examined. As a result, as a strep carrier, you may get a cold and go to the doctor. The doctor then tests you for strep, and the test comes back positive. Every time you go to the doctor for a cold, you are diagnosed with strep throat, even though it is the cold and not the strep bacteria that is causing your symptoms. The result might be the appearance of recurrent strep throat even though, in reality, you are just experiencing a series of colds.
Exposure to High Strep Environments
Finally, you may be getting recurrent strep throat because you are being exposed to environments where there is a lot of strep. For example, any situation in which you are regularly among crowds (i.e. on the subway in an urban environment or working as a teacher) can expose you to strep because of the number of people and germs around. There often isn’t much you can do about your exposure to these situations, but being aware that they can lead to recurrent strep can help you to narrow down a cause if you keep experiencing strep throat.
How is recurrent strep throat treated?
The exact treatment you can expect for recurrent strep throat depends upon the reason for your recurrent strep throat. In general, you can expect to receive at least one (and possibly more) of the following treatments:
If the doctor believes that your recurrent strep throat is due to an ineffective antibiotic, chances are that they will prescribe you a different antibiotic. For instance, if you are allergic to penicillin or amoxicillin, or if these antibiotics are not clearing up your strep throat, your doctor may prescribe a different medication (such as cephalexin). By changing your antibiotic, the doctor can usually help you to fight off resistant strep bacteria or help you to fight off the neutralizing effects of the healthy bacteria in your throat.
However, any time you take an antibiotic, you need to be sure you complete the full dose you are prescribed in order to get the maximum benefit out of the medication. Otherwise, you may be the cause of your recurrent strep throat as the bacteria spring back after you stop taking your medication.
If you are suffering from recurrent strep throat because of a weakened immune system or exposure to high strep environments, your doctor might ask you to make some lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of contracting strep over and over again. These changes might include the following:
It will be important for you, as someone with a weakened immune system, to follow strict hygiene practices. For example, you will need to wash your hands before and after you eat, after using the restroom, after being out and about, etc. You will also need to avoid sharing drinks and utensils with other people. And, you should try not to be around anyone who is sick, in order to avoid contracting their illness. While these are smart practices for anyone, they are even more important if you are already predisposed to becoming ill. These practices should reduce the number of times that strep (and other illnesses) take root in your body and flourish.
Avoidance of Crowded Areas
Crowded environments can increase the incidence of strep throat. If you are living in a crowded area, in a crowded home, etc., you may want to consider moving to a place that is a little less crowded. If you can, you may want to lessen the number of times you are in busy areas and in close contact with crowds of people. Doing so should lessen the number of times you are exposed to the strep bacteria and, therefore, the number of times you come down with strep throat.
One relatively extreme treatment for recurrent strep throat is a tonsillectomy. This is a surgery during which your tonsils are removed. A tonsillectomy is not performed specifically to treat recurrent strep throat (since strep throat occurs in the throat instead of specifically in the tonsils). However, it can be used to treat repeated infections in the tonsils, many of which could be related to recurrent strep throat.
In general, you will be recommended for a tonsillectomy if you have more than seven episodes of tonsillitis (infection of the tonsils) in a year, 5 episodes a year for two years, or 3 episodes a year for 3 years in a row. Recurrent infections are not the only reason you might have a tonsillectomy, either. The surgery is performed for cancer, bleeding, abscesses that do not respond to antibiotics, and complications caused by enlarged tonsils (such as difficulty breathing).
Once you have the tonsillectomy, you should see an improvement in the number of throat infections you contract every year (including strep throat). These effects should last for at least the next few years. Of course, a tonsillectomy comes with certain risks. For example, you might experience swelling in your mouth and tongue immediately after the surgery that might cause breathing problems. You might experience bleeding either during or after surgery that will require additional treatment, or you might experience an infection that would also require additional treatment. However, for patients suffering from recurrent strep throat and other causes of tonsillitis, the risks might be more than outweighed by the benefits of having fewer infections, pain, medications, and missed work and school.
Who is at the greatest risk of getting strep throat?
Anyone can get strep throat, whether adults, children, or babies. However, strep throat in babies and strep throat in toddlers is relatively rare. Instead, it is children between the ages of 5 and 15 who are at the greatest risk of contracting strep throat. Once they exceed the age of 15, the occurrences of strep throat begin to decline. As a result, if your child is contracting strep throat frequently, you may find that waiting it out is the best option for dealing with the recurrent strep throat. Over time, as your child grows older, they should begin to come down with strep throat less often.
Another risk factor for strep throat is spending a lot of time with large groups of people. For example, large families statistically experience more occurrences of strep than do smaller families. Living in a crowded environment, spending lots of time with crowds of children (such as a teacher), and regularly spending time among many people (such as on a city subway) can increase your chances of getting strep throat. The reason for this increased risk is the fact that you are around more germs and, because you are in close contact with lots of people, it is much easier for those germs to be passed back and forth between you and the people around you. You are also more likely to come into contact with a strep carrier (who probably does not even know they are carrying the strep bacteria) and, therefore, increases your chances of catching strep throat from someone who may not even be ill themselves.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, you may be more prone to contracting strep throat if you have a weakened immune system. Some people are simply born with a weaker immune system than others. Others have a weakened immune system because of a specific illness or medication. For example, chemotherapy and radiation can weaken the system; HIV can weaken the immune system; and corticosteroids can weaken the immune system. If you have reason to suspect that your immune system is not as strong as it should be, you need to take precautionary measures (such as avoiding crowded places and washing your hands frequently) in order to avoid contracting illnesses like strep throat.
Can infants get strep throat?
While it is uncommon for infants to come down with strep throat, it is possible. Often, they contract the strep throat from an older brother or sister who comes down with it themselves and who passes it along to the baby. Otherwise, infants have very little opportunity to even be exposed to the strep throat bacteria, because they are not yet sharing toys, food, drink, and germs with other children.
Because they cannot express their pain in words yet, babies may express their discomfort differently from older children and adults. For example, strep throat in infants might include lots of drooling, sleeplessness, and fussiness because of the pain their throats are causing them. However, they may also have similar symptoms to older children and adults (such as a fever and white patches on the throat). The symptoms children and babies experience have been listed above.
Despite its rarity, strep throat in infants is treated in much the same way as is strep throat in older children and in adults. Specifically, your doctor will swab and test for the strep bacteria. And, if the test comes back positive, your baby will be given a round of antibiotics in order to eliminate the strep bacteria and return your child to health.
When are you most likely to get strep throat?
Like the cold and flu, strep throat is most commonly caught during the fall and winter months. During these times of year, people are more likely to be inside. As a result, they create more crowded environments where germs are more easily passed back and forth. Other factors, such as seasonal changes in our bodies, might also contribute to the increase in illnesses, including strep throat, during the fall and winter.
Strep Throat vs. Other Throat Conditions
What is the difference between strep throat vs. sore throat?
As touched upon earlier, there are differences between strep throat and a regular sore throat. The biggest difference is that strep throat is caused by a particular kind of bacteria, while a sore throat can be caused by a virus from another illness, irritation from allergies, or other issues. Strep throat is an infection in and of itself, not just a symptom of another illness.
There are a few other differences between strep throat and a regular sore throat. Following are some of these differences. By learning what these difference are, you should be able to more easily tell which is which the next time you experience a sore throat.
The sore throat that comes with a regular illness or allergies is not as persistent as the sore throat that comes with strep. If you catch a cold, and suffer a sore throat along with it, the sore throat should resolve within a few days. If you have strep throat, however, your sore throat will probably not go away, and, in fact, will probably continue to get worse over time.
A sore throat and strep throat will also often differ from each other in the severity of their symptoms. For example, a sore throat that accompanies a cold or allergies will often be painful but will not usually keep you from eating and drinking. However, the sore throat that accompanies strep throat is often so painful that you cannot eat or drink.
Similarly, you might have a fever with a regular sore throat, but the fever is likely to remain low grade. With strep, the fever can be quite severe, exceeding 101 degrees Fahrenheit in many instances. Because strep throat symptoms tend to be worse than the symptoms that accompany a regular sore throat, it is safe for you to assume that the worse your symptoms are, the more likely you are to have strep throat.
Additional Cold Symptoms
Another difference between your average sore throat and strep throat is the presence of additional cold symptoms. For example, a regular sore throat is often caused by a virus that also causes other cold symptoms (such as a cough or a runny nose). A sore throat caused by allergies also often comes with other symptoms of an allergy, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, etc. Strep throat, on the other hand, does not always come with additional cold symptoms. The symptoms caused by the streptococcus bacteria do not include things such as a runny nose or a cough. Therefore, if you are experiencing classic cold symptoms along with your sore throat, you are relatively unlikely to have strep throat (though you may still want to check with a doctor to be sure).
What is the difference between tonsillitis vs. strep throat?
Because strep throat involves swollen tonsils and a sore throat, it can also be easy to confuse tonsillitis and strep throat. In fact, both can have similar symptoms: A bad sore throat, swollen tonsils, and a fever. As with strep throat, tonsillitis also often occurs without many other cold symptoms (such as congestion, cough, etc.). Tonsillitis can even create yellow or white spots on the back of the throat, similar to strep throat. However, as with a sore throat vs. strep throat, there are differences that can help you to decide which you might be experiencing. Following is an overview of these symptoms:
Bad breath is a common occurrence with tonsillitis. However, it does not occur very often with strep throat. As a result, if you are experiencing significant and unusual bad breath, chances are you have tonsillitis instead of strep throat. However, if your symptoms appear in the absence of bad breath, you might want to consider the possibility that you are suffering from strep throat.
Voice changes also occur more frequently with tonsillitis than with strep throat. These changes are due to the extreme swelling of the tonsils that is common with tonsillitis. If you are finding it difficult to speak, or if your voice sounds different, you may have tonsillitis. If your voice remains normal, you might be more likely to be suffering from strep throat.
In the end, the best thing to do if you have a severe sore throat that does not go away within a couple of days is to consult a doctor. You can often tell whether or not you are likely to have strep throat by thinking through the differences between strep throat vs. a sore throat and strep throat vs. tonsillitis. However, because so many of the symptoms are similar, and because people experience illnesses in slightly different ways, consulting a doctor is the best way to know for sure what you are suffering from. Plus, even if you have tonsillitis instead of strep throat, chances are that you will need an antibiotic to beat the infection anyway. As a result, never hesitate to see a doctor to have your throat tested in order to determine whether you are suffering from a regular sore throat, tonsillitis, or strep.
When should I see a doctor for a sore throat?
Because some sore throats can be manifestations of a virus, while others are signs that you have strep throat (or tonsillitis) and must be treated, it can be hard to know exactly when to head to the doctor. Should you go the first day you have a sore throat? When you can’t swallow? Should you wait 2 days, or 2 weeks?
Thankfully, there are a few clear signs that you should consult a doctor about your (or your child’s) sore throat. These signs do not mean you have strep throat, but they do mean that you MIGHT have strep throat or another serious throat condition, and you need to be checked out. Following is a list of the times that you should see a doctor about a sore throat:
- Any time your sore throat comes with swollen glands
- Any time you have trouble swallowing, eating, or breathing because of your sore throat or swollen tonsils/glands
- Any time your sore throat lasts longer than two full days
- Any time your sore throat comes with a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if that fever lasts longer than two full days
- Any time you have a rash along with your sore throat
- Any time your child has a fever that lasts longer than two full days
- Any time you are taking an antibiotic for strep throat, and you do not experience relief from your symptoms within two full days
- Whenever your sore throat comes on suddenly or with particular severity
- Whenever you notice any spotting or pus in your throat or the top of your mouth
- If your sore throat is accompanied by symptoms such as a headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills
- Whenever you have trouble speaking for more than two weeks
When should I take my child to see a doctor for a sore throat?
The same symptoms listed above should prompt you to call the doctor for your child as well. However, children sometimes require more prompt medical attention than do adults. Therefore, you should take your child to the doctor if they have had a fever for more than 48 hours, even if the fever does not get above 101 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, you should take your child to the doctor if their sore throat does not resolve within 48 hours without cold symptoms, and 5 to 7 days if the sore throat does come with cold symptoms. In addition, you should call your doctor for your child who has a sore throat any time you think they have a sore throat and they are younger than 2 years old or if they come down with a sore throat after having interacted with someone who you know has strep throat. Always take your child for a sore throat if they have a fever that leaves and then returns, or if they have a sore throat that does not respond to medication. These are signs that your child may have strep throat and needs prompt medical diagnosis and treatment.
Are there any strep throat complications?
One of the reasons that strep throat is such a serious illness is because of the potential for certain complications to arise. These complications can be more serious and more widespread than the sore throat that comes with strep. However, the thing to remember about these complications is that they most often occur in people whose strep throat goes undiagnosed and untreated. They are the result of the infection being allowed to run unchecked for a longer period of time.
That is why most doctors want you to come see them if your sore throat does not resolve within a few days or if you experience any potential symptoms of strep. They want to get you diagnosed and treated before the infection has a chance to turn into any of the strep throat complications that will be discussed below. These complications are the result of the bacteria moving from your throat into other parts of your body, where it can do more harm. The longer your strep throat goes untreated, the more of a chance the bacteria has to migrate through your body and cause complications.
If you follow doctor’s orders and have your sore throat examined promptly, you are more than likely going to avoid serious complications. Instead, you should simply require a round of antibiotics to clear the strep throat up. Following is a list of the complications that can come with strep throat, their symptoms, and their treatment:
An ear infection occurs anytime part of your ear becomes populated with bacteria. Often, this infection occurs when the tubes in the ear become blocked by congestion during a cold and provide a breeding ground for bacteria. However, an ear infection can also be caused by the migration of the strep bacteria from the throat into the ear. As with strep throat, the strep-induced ear infection can be treated with antibiotics.
A sinus infection is also a common infection caused by other illnesses, such as the common cold. However, as with ear infections, a sinus infection can also be caused if the strep bacteria migrates to the sinuses. Antibiotics can also help to eliminate sinus infections caused by the strep bacteria.
The mastoid is a bone in your inner ear. If this bone becomes infected, the infection is called mastoiditis. Generally, mastoiditis is caused by an untreated ear infection. Sometimes, strep can travel to this bone and infect it. While caused by strep or by an untreated ear infection, mastoiditis is more severe than either of these. It can lead to abscesses in the brain, the destruction of the mastoid bone, and even death. As a result, it must be treated immediately and aggressively. The symptoms of mastoiditis include the following:
- Pain in the ear
- Redness behind the ear
- Swelling behind the ear
- Tenderness behind the ear
- Ear drainage
- Hearing loss
If you are diagnosed with mastoiditis, you may need to be hospitalized in order to receive antibiotics strong enough to fight off the infection. In severe cases that do not respond to antibiotics, surgery may be needed to drain the infection from the mastoid.
A relatively harmless but annoying strep complication is guttate psoriasis. This is a type of psoriasis is characterized by lesions on the skin that resemble drops. These drops may contain fine scales on top and are generally itchy. Guttate psoriasis appears mostly on the arms, legs, and torso. The outbreak may resolve on its own and never return, or it may return repeatedly.
Despite its tendency to resolve itself, guttate psoriasis can be irritating. It can take up to a couple of months to go away, and its itchiness bothers some sufferers. Plus, it can appear in anyone. Both people who have never had any kind of psoriasis, as well as regular psoriasis sufferers, can contract guttate psoriasis.
Generally, it will appear a few weeks after the strep infection has resolved itself. There are not any cures for guttate psoriasis. In general, your doctor will be able to give you something to help you manage the itching if it becomes too bothersome, but otherwise you will need to wait for it to resolve itself.
As its name suggests, a throat abscess is an abscess in the throat caused by the strep bacteria. The particular abscess caused by strep is referred to as a peritonsillar abscess. It causes in pus-filled abscesses near and around the tonsils. While strep throat is painful, this strep-induced throat abscess is particularly uncomfortable. Some patients find themselves entirely unable to swallow. This type of complication also tends to be more severe than an ear infection and sinus infection. As a result, it needs to be treated promptly by a doctor to alleviate the pain and to prevent further illness.
The treatment for a throat abscess typically involves a simple procedure during which the abscess is drained. You are conscious for this procedure, and a long needle is used. Once your abscess is drained, you will be given antibiotics to eliminate the infection. If the abscess continues to recur, you may need to have your tonsils removed. However, many people only ever have one abscess, if they have it at all. As a result, a throat abscess needs to be treated, but is not something that typically requires drastic action.
By itself, scarlet fever is an annoying but not severe illness. However, left untreated, it can lead to more serious complications that can result in long-term health problems. That is why, if you suspect that you or your child has scarlet fever, you should go to the doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Scarlet fever is characterized by a number of symptoms. The two most distinguishing features of this disease are a “strawberry" tongue and a sandpaper-like rash over the body. The rash is a reaction of the body to the poisons produced by the scarlet fever. If you notice these symptoms, you should seek out medical attention right away. Also be aware that the rash can appear up to 7 days after the initial onset of scarlet fever symptoms, or it may show up before other scarlet fever symptoms occur. Following is a list of the other signs of scarlet fever that you may notice.
- A high fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- A coating on the tongue or back of the throat that appears white
- A “strawberry" tongue
- A sandpaper-like rash over the body
- Bright red skin in the underarm, groin, and elbow creases
- Swollen glands
- Vomiting and nausea
- Abdominal pain
- Flushed cheeks
- Paleness around the mouth
If left untreated, the rash and other symptoms generally resolve within a week. However, their effects may last much longer. They can lead to rheumatic fever, ear infections, sinus infections, arthritis, pneumonia, throat abscesses, kidney inflammation, and skin infections. Rheumatic fever in particular can lead to lifelong problems, especially with the heart. That is why scarlet fever must be treated as soon as possible with antibiotics in order to resolve the infection and prevent further complications.
Rheumatic fever is one of the more serious strep throat complications. This illness is a result of scarlet fever, or strep throat, both caused by the strep bacteria. It can have a wide ranging impact on your body. Essentially, it consists of the body’s immune system attacking your body. The inflammation caused by this disease can be both painful and damaging.
Rheumatic fever often occurs between 2 weeks and one month after you have strep throat. It creates severe inflammation throughout your body. This inflammation can affect your joints, skin, brain, central nervous system, and even your heart. This inflammation can present itself in any number of symptoms. The number, type, and severity of symptoms you experience with rheumatic fever depends largely upon your individual case, and upon the particular organs in your body that are under attack by the disease. Following is a list of some of the most common symptoms that you may experience with rheumatic fever:
- A rash. This rash will have a jagged edge, will not itch or hurt, and may be either raised or flat.
- Chest pain
- Heart murmur
- Pain and swelling in your joints, including your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, hands, feet, shoulders, and hips
- Uncontrolled movement in your hands, feet, and face
- Nodules underneath your skin. These nodules do not typically hurt.
If you have rheumatic fever, you will probably undergo a round of antibiotics to fight off the infection and return your body to normal. While rheumatic fever can damage your body, most of this damage is reversible. The exception is damage to the heart. Complications from rheumatic fever can include various heart problems that often continue after the disease is resolved. However, do not fear. Rheumatic fever does not appear very often in the United States. Simply respond to strep throat symptoms promptly and follow your doctor’s orders regarding treatment, and you will, in most cases, be able to avoid the strep throat complication of rheumatic fever.
Called glomerulonephritis, kidney inflammation can be caused by strep throat. You may have kidney inflammation if you find blood in your urine and/or experience swelling in your extremities (edema). This condition can be treated by antibiotics or by steroids. Left untreated, it can result in chronic kidney disease, so if you have symptoms of kidney inflammation, you should be checked out by a doctor. This problem can also be caused by conditions not related to strep throat (such as lupus). As a result, while it is a strep throat complication, you should seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of kidney inflammation, even if you have not recently had strep throat.
For children, a potential strep throat complication is PANDAS. This acronym stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with Group A streptococci. This long and rather complex name is used to describe children who have preexisting conditions such as OCD or other disorders and whose disorders get worse after they have strep throat. While a connection between strep and the worsening of their symptoms has not yet been firmly established, there have been enough incidents to cause doctors to examine whether such a link might exist.
While this list of strep throat complications is long, you need to remember that the occurrence of these complications is relatively rare. Just be aware that they exist, and do not hesitate to follow up with your doctor if you begin to experience any of the symptoms associated with these complications.
How is strep throat diagnosed?
Understanding the symptoms of strep throat listed above can help you make an educated guess about whether or not you might have strep. The guidelines listed above should also help you to know when you need to get your sore throat checked out by a doctor. However, strep throat and a regular sore throat can feel similar. There is no foolproof way to know for sure which is which without consulting your doctor. As a result, the only way to know for sure whether or not you have strep throat is to go to a doctor and have them run a strep test. Even a medical professional is unable to make a firm diagnosis of strep without running a test to confirm their suspicions.
When you visit your doctor for a sore throat, they will probably ask you a number of questions to determine the likelihood that you have strep throat. For instance, they might ask you how much pain you are in, whether or not you can eat and drink, whether you have noticed any white patches on your throat, whether or not you are experiencing stomach discomfort, whether or not you have cold symptoms, and so forth. They will probably also take your temperature to see if you have a fever.
Then, your doctor will probably conduct an examination of your throat. This examination will include feeling the glands around your neck to check for swelling. It will also include shining a light in your mouth to get a good look at your throat. Things the doctor will probably be looking for include red patches on your mouth, white or yellow spots or patches on your throat, swollen tonsils, and areas of pus around your tonsils.
After completing these examinations, your doctor will probably order a strep test. This test is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have strep, so if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of strep, they will use this test to be sure. If the test comes back positive, even faintly positive, you have strep throat and will need to be treated. This treatment will most likely consist of a course of antibiotics. If the test comes back negative, you do not have strep throat and may either be treated for tonsillitis or told to go home, rest, drink fluids, and wait for the sore throat to heal on its own.
When it comes to the strep throat test, there are actually two tests that may be performed on you. The first, and most common, test is called the rapid strep test. This procedure is so named because it can return results in just a few minutes (often in 5 minutes or so), allowing you to know whether or not you have strep throat before you leave the doctor’s office.
The rapid stress test is a relatively simple procedure. The doctor takes a cotton swab that is on the end of a long stick and quickly takes a sample from the back of your throat. This procedure may cause you to cough or gag briefly, but should not be painful. It is also over within a second or two, so any discomfort is not prolonged. This test works by identifying the presence of antigens, which are substances that are associated with strep throat and which cause the body to react strongly (thus the sore throat and other symptoms you experience with this illness).
In most cases, if you have strep throat, the rapid test will come back positive, and you will be treated with antibiotics. However, occasionally, the rapid strep test comes back negative, even if you have strep. That is why, if the rapid test is negative, your doctor will send the sample out to a lab to be cultured. This means that the lab will attempt to grow the strep bacteria to see if it is present in the sample taken from your throat. This test takes longer (about 2 days). However, it is extremely accurate, and should let you know for sure if you have strep.
Sometimes, if your doctor feels certain that you have strep, or simply as a preventative measure, they will start you on antibiotics while you wait for the results from the lab. At other times, you will need to wait for the lab results to come back before you can begin antibiotics for strep throat. This decision is up to your doctor, although you can always ask them for their reasoning regarding their decision in this matter.
Are there ways to test for strep throat at home?
Of course, visiting a doctor can be inconvenient. You have to make an appointment, possibly miss work, and take the time to have the appointment. Plus, doctor visits often cost money (at the very least, a copay). If you do not have insurance, you might end up paying hundreds of dollars for the visit. Paying these expenses just to find out you have a virus can be frustrating.
If you want to get a better idea of whether or not you have strep throat without visiting a doctor, there are home strep tests available. These tests allow you to quickly check for strep yourself, without seeing the doctor. They are also sold over the counter (or online), so you do not need a prescription in order to purchase them. Many of them are approved by the FDA, and are either the same or very similar to those that would be used by your doctor’s office. Before you take one of these tests, however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Home strep tests are not 100 percent accurate.
Home strep tests boast a high degree of accuracy, in the mid- to high-90s. This means that almost every time, they will give you the right answer regarding whether or not you or your child has strep throat. However, none of these tests is 100 percent accurate. This means that, rarely, you will get a false positive (that tells you you have strep even when you do not) or a false negative (that tells you you do not have strep even when you do). Even home strep tests that are the same as or nearly the same as those used in the doctor’s office can give you false results. The reason is that you may not swab correctly or may inadvertently contaminate the test while using it. As a result, just be aware that in rare cases, the result you get could be wrong.
In the case of a false positive, the results are relatively minor. You go to your doctor to get antibiotics and they run a strep test and find that you do not have strep. However, false negatives can be more damaging. If you do not think you have strep, you may wait longer to go to the doctor. This means you give the strep throat a longer time in which to spread to other parts of your body and cause complications.
As a result, use your home strep test judiciously.
Because home strep tests are not 100 percent accurate, do not use them as a final diagnosis. Instead, use them as a guideline regarding how immediately to seek treatment. For example, say you have a fever and a bad sore throat, but it is Saturday and you do not want to pay for a visit to urgent care. If you take an at home strep test and it comes up negative, you are probably safe to wait until Monday to consult with your regular doctor. This strategy can save you hundreds of dollars in medical bills. Alternatively, say that the test came back positive. You would then know that a trip to urgent care (and the related expenses) is necessary in order to get your strep throat resolved.
Consider taking multiple tests.
Because of the risk of false positives and false negatives with home strep tests, you may want to consider taking multiple tests when you are testing yourself at home. For example, instead of taking one test to see if you have strep throat, take three or four. If all of the tests come back with the same result, you can trust those results much more easily than you can trust the results of just one test. This strategy will help you to more accurately pinpoint whether or not you have strep throat and will help you to avoid the problems that come with inaccurate results from your home strep test.
Always consult with your doctor.
Finally, the best way to use a home strep test is to consult with your doctor in addition to taking the test. For example, if you take a home strep test on Saturday and it comes back negative, you should still see your doctor on Monday, just in case you received a false negative on your home strep test. By following up with your doctor on the results of your home strep test, you are more likely to avoid the problems that false negatives and positives can cause you.
Even though you need to be smart about how you use home strep tests, they can be an easy way to gauge how urgently you need to see the doctor. And, they do have the potential to save you some money on medical costs. The tests themselves are usually very inexpensive (costing, at most, only a few dollars per test). As a result, they are easy to obtain, easy to use, and may be helpful when you really need to get an idea of whether or not your sore throat might be strep. Following is one of the best home strep tests around:
This at home strep test kit is a very reliable way to test at home for strep throat. This test has been approved by the FDA, meaning it has passed that organization’s standards for a reliable and trustworthy medical product. Plus, it is backed up by many positive reviews. Reviewers, in particular, note that this test is almost always accurate. They report testing themselves when they know for sure they have strep and seeing the tests come back positive, as well as testing after they complete a course of antibiotics and finding that the strep has been resolved and the test comes up negative. Many reviewers report that this at home strep test is the same or very similar to the tests that their doctor’s office uses to diagnose strep. These facts make the Easy at Home strep test stand out as one of the most accurate and trustworthy at home strep tests on the market today.
This at home strep testing kit requires you to follow a few simple steps to complete the test. First, you must mix two reagents together in a test tube. Then, you must swab your throat with the included swab. Then, you must swirl the swab in the test tube for one minute. Afterward, you dip the included test strip into the test tube for five seconds and remove it. One line on the test strip indicates a negative strep test. Two lines on the test strip indicate a positive strep test. Results will show up in as little as five and in as many as ten minutes.
This simple procedure makes it possible for almost anyone to get a fast and accurate reading on the state of their throat. Plus, with 25 tests in each kit, the cost for each test is almost nothing, making it affordable for many people as well.
What are the best steps to strep throat prevention?
Of course, the best treatment for strep throat is to prevent yourself from getting it in the first place. If you never come down with the illness, you never have to worry about treating it, or about missing school or work because you are ill. Fortunately, there are a number of strep throat prevention steps you can take. Following are a few of the most effective ones:
Wash your hands.
Frequent and thorough hand washing is, perhaps, the very best way to prevent yourself from contracting strep throat (and many other illnesses). By “wash your hands" the experts, however, mean more than just a cursory scrub at the sink. Instead, you should wash your hands regularly: Before and after every meal, after using the restroom, after being around someone who is ill, before touching your mouth or eyes, after being out and about, and so forth. In addition, you should be thorough: This means washing your hands with soap for at least twenty seconds. During this time, you should wash every part of your hand, including under your fingernails and between your fingers. You should also always use hot water and dry your hands thoroughly afterward.
Do not share utensils and drinks with others.
As mentioned earlier, sharing utensils and drinks with others is a good way to catch strep throat (and other illnesses). As a result, a smart strep throat prevention technique is to avoid sharing these items with others, even if they do not seem sick. They might be contagious and simply not be showing signs yet, or they may be strep carriers who do not realize that they are capable of passing strep throat on to others. In this way, you can avoid contracting strep throat when possible.
Avoid those who have strep throat.
If you know that someone is ill with strep throat, another strep throat prevention technique is to avoid them until they are better. This last tip may be easier said than done, however. If the person who has strep is a loved one or a child, then it may be difficult or impossible to avoid them, especially if they need you to take care of them. However, in these situations, you can still minimize your risk of contracting strep by washing your hands frequently after caring for or spending time with them.
Strep throat can be a stressful and painful illness. Its many symptoms, including a sore throat, white spots, and fever, mean that it can make you very uncomfortable. Many people find themselves unable to attend school and work as a result of the discomfort that strep throat causes, and due to the fact that strep throat is contagious. However, dealing with strep throat is simply a matter consulting with your doctor as soon as you begin to show symptoms, receiving a simple test, and, if you test positive, taking a round of antibiotics. You may also try home remedies in order to get rid of strep naturally if you wish. With a combination of antibiotics and home remedies, you can quickly overcome your strep throat and get back to your normal life.