Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. The infection will cause inflammation and pain in the throat which can make you feel as if your throat is sore and scratchy. Strep throat can affect children and adults of any age. However, it is especially common in children between the age group of 5 and 15. The infection can be spread from one person to another by sneezing and coughing.
The severity of strep throat can vary from person-to-person. Mild symptoms like a sore throat can be experienced by some people, whereas other people have more severe symptoms including fever and difficulty swallowing. Usually within five days of exposure to the bacteria, the symptoms of strep throat would develop.
Sore throats are not necessarily a result of a strep infection always. These may be due to other illness such as common cold, sinus infection, postnasal drip or acid reflux. Painful swallowing, difficulty breathing, tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth, red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus, swollen, tender lymph nodes in your neck, fever with chills, headache,body aches, throat pain, nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children,loss of appetite and rashes are some of the sign and symptoms of strep throat.
Usually sore throats caused by other medical conditions improve on their own with or without treatment in a few days. If you experience a sore throat that lasts longer than two days with above symptoms, then it is advisable to visit your doctor. Call your doctor if you or your child has a sore throat accompanied by tender, swollen lymph glands or a rash that does not show any sign of improvement after taking antibiotics for 48 hours.
If a fever higher than 101 F in older children persist, or fever lasting longer than 48 hours requires immediate medical attention. It is possible that the cause of these signs and symptoms could be a viral infection or some other illness. Therefore some specific test related to strep throat should be done for diagnosis.
Left untreated, strep throat can cause serious complications such as ear infection, sinusitis, rheumatic fever, poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, scarlet fever, guttate psoriasis and peritonsillar abscess.
Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints, the heart, and the skin where as poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys.
Scarlet fever occurs when toxins created by the strep infection cause a scarlet-colored rash to develop on different parts of the body. Guttate psoriasis is a condition that causes small, red teardrop-shaped spots to appear on the body and mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone in the skull. Peritonsillar abscess is a pus-filled infection that develops in the back of the tonsils. All of these complications could be very serious if strep throat is left untreated.
Prevention can be done by following a good hygiene. Rapid antigen test and a throat culture test along with physical examination can be done to diagnose a strep throat. Penicillin and amoxicillin are the most common medications given for a strep infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be advised to relieve throat pain and reduce fever.
Drinking plenty of fluid, eating soothing foods, getting plenty of rest, gargling with warm salt water, staying away from irritants, using a humidifier and using saline nasal spray are some of the tips to relieve symptoms of strep throat.