If you’ve ever had strep throat, then you know how painful it can be. In fact, people often liken the pain of strep throat to that of razor blades – it can be that excruciating. Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid catching strep throat, as well as things certain things you can do to try and relieve the symptoms and speed up the healing process.
What is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is an infection that is caused by group A Streptococcus bacterium, resulting in pain and inflammation in the throat. It can affect individuals at any age, although it tends to be much more prevalent in children and teens between the ages of 5 and 15.
How Do You Get Strep Throat?
Strep throat is highly contagious and is usually spread as a result of person-to-person contact, such as kissing someone who already has strep throat or by sharing food, drinks, and kitchen utensils (such a forks, spoons and cups/mugs) with an infected individual. Strep throat is also commonly spread through airborne droplets; for example, when someone coughs or sneezes. It’s also easy to pick up bacteria from handling doorknobs or touching surfaces. The best way to prevent strep throat is to avoid anyone you know who might be sick, and to also wash your hands regularly to prevent the transfer of bacteria.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Symptoms of strep throat generally appear within 5 days of being exposed to the bacteria. Having a sore throat is the most common symptom, and that sore throat is also often accompanied by redness and white patches. Other common symptoms include difficulty swallowing, a sudden fever, swollen glands and lymph nodes in the neck, headache, chills, and loss of appetite.
Diagnosing Strep Throat
First, it’s important to know that there are other medical conditions that can cause a sore throat; including acid reflux, postnasal drip, sinus infections, and the common cold. Therefore, in order to diagnose strep throat, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will do a throat swab which is then sent off to a lab to see if it grows any bacteria.
Treating Strep Throat
If your throat swab comes back positive, your strep throat will need to be treated with a course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. As many of these antibiotics can cause nausea, upset stomach, and in some cases even vomiting, you should always take them with food, plenty of water, and also probiotics. Probiotics come in pill form, which are available at all pharmacies, or you can also eat yogurt. Aside from antibiotics, you can also try a few at-home remedies to help relieve symptoms, such as drinking tea with lemon and honey, taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, sucking on throat lozenges, as well as gargling with a cup of warm water and salt. Typically, symptoms associated with strep throat should improve after one week. However, other complications can also arise as a result of strep throat, such as ear infections, sinusitis, rheumatic fever, and you can also develop a pus-filled infection which develops in the back of the throat known as peritonsillar abscess. To reduce the risk of these complications, or if your symptoms haven’t improved after 48 hours of treatment, you should go back to see your doctor.