Strep throat is pretty common in children, and medical professionals can do a quick test to determine if an infection is strep. The trick is to get the test and get treatment started as soon as possible to help you feel better, prevent long-term health problems such as joint, heart, and kidney disease, and prevent spreading it to others.
What differentiates a sore throat from strep throat?
Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils that is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Group A strep also can live in a person’s nose and throat without making that person sick. A regular sore throat can be caused by all kinds of things, including viruses, allergens, cigarette smoke, and chronic postnasal drip. Many will get better without treatment, but strep throat requires antibiotic treatment to get rid of the infection.
How is strep spread?
The bacteria are spread when a person disperses them in droplets in their coughs and sneezes. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching something with the droplets containing the bacteria, you will likely become sick.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are:
- A sore throat that begins quickly and can cause pain when swallowing
- A fever
- 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
Other symptoms can include headache, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Some people may also have a rash.
What is the best treatment for strep?
After getting a positive test for strep, your medical provider will likely prescribe antibiotics. This will decrease the time you are sick and help prevent the spread of the infection to others. It also will reduce your symptoms and prevent more serious complications, such as tonsil and sinus infections, and acute rheumatic fever, which is a rare inflammatory disease that can affect the heart, joints, skin, and brain.
What is the best way to prevent it in the first place?
There is no vaccine, so the best way to prevent it is to wash your hands often and avoid sharing eating utensils and cups and water bottles. It is especially important to wash your hands often and cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing if you have a sore throat. People with strep throat should stay home until their fever is gone and they have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
“A Closer Look at Your Health” airs Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI Newsradio 670 in Boise; this is an edited transcript of the program that aired June 6, 2017.