Are you suffering from a sore throat and wondering whether it is due to a bacterial throat infection? Read the following article for information on the causes, symptoms and treatment regarding the same.
Throat infections are caused in humans mainly due to viral or bacterial infections. The scientific term used for these infections is Pharyngitis. Sore throat is the most common and the first symptom to be seen in a person affected by throat infection. Most times the infection is a viral infection and not the one caused by the bacteria or fungi. However, when there is an imbalance in the number of bacteria present in the throat and when some of them start growing quickly, one may experience a sore throat along with other symptoms. To learn about the balance of bacteria in the throat people often opt for a bacterial culture wherein, a swab of the throat is taken and cultivated to find out what grows in it. In any kind of throat infection, there is inflammation of the tissues of the pharynx, larynx and tonsils, which leads to swelling of the walls of the throat. The commonly seen symptoms are pain in the throat, difficulty in swallowing food, loss of appetite, fever, bodyache, ear pain, headaches and infection in the tonsils.
Infection Causing Bacteria
Streptococcus (Strep throat)
It is a bacterium that causes strep throat, which is characterized as an infection in the throat and tonsils. In this condition, the throat becomes inflamed and irritated resulting into a severe sore throat. The symptoms of a strep throat include a red and painful sore throat, sometimes white patches on tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, headache and fever. Children will experience nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. This infection is contagious and hence, can spread from one infected person to another through close contact. A strep throat can lead to certain serious medical conditions such as tonsillitis and ear infections. It may cause rheumatic fever which may further cause heart valve problems as well as inflammation of the kidneys in some cases.
Neisseria meningitidis (Meningitis)
Meningitis is rare but a very serious type of bacterial infection, which usually starts with a cold-like infection. It is the inflammation of meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. It may block the blood vessels in the brain and cause a stroke or brain damage. In some cases, the bacteria spread to the meninges due to severe sinus or ear infections or a severe head injury. Anyone at any age can suffer from bacterial meningitis, however, meningitis caused by neisseria meningitidis bacteria is common in older children. Adults who have a weakened immune system are also at a higher risk of acquiring this infection with life-threatening consequences, if not dealt with at the right time. It can also occur from a close contact with others like college mates, military groups, etc. Common symptoms include high fever, headache and stiffness in the neck. Older children will present confusion, drowsiness and irritability as the major symptoms of this infection.
Corynebacterium diphtheriae (Diphtheria)
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection caused by corynebacterium diphtheriae. It occurs very quickly and spreads very easily. Usually, children under the age of 5 years and adults over 60 years are at a higher risk of getting this infection. It affects the nose and throat and causes a bad sore throat, fever and chills and swollen neck glands. If left untreated, diphtheria can start producing poison in the body, which may lead to a thick, fuzzy, gray-black coating in the throat, nose or air passages that causes breathing problems and difficulty in swallowing. Serious health complications such as paralysis or heart failure are the result of an extremely severe diphtheria.
*Please note that the above mentioned bacteria are always present in the throat, but that doesn’t mean the person has bacterial infection. Only when a person experiences ill health these bacteria become active and cause infections.
Doctors generally prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. Commonly used oral antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin, azithromycin, clindamycin and penicillin are often prescribed by doctors to treat this condition. Penicillin injections are also used to treat a throat infection. Antibiotics help in stopping the transmission of infection to other people, besides reducing the symptoms in the affected person and thus, providing relief. There are certain precautions and home remedies which can be followed along with the treatment prescribed by a doctor.
Increase the fluid intake by drinking lots of water, fruit juices and coconut water. Due to a bacterial infection, excess mucus is generated, which becomes thick and sticks to the air passages. Drinking plenty of water helps in thinning this excess, thick mucus and thus, it can be coughed out easily. Drinking hot water when suffering from bacterial infection helps in killing the infectious bacteria present in the throat. Having lime juice in this condition is especially beneficial as it being acidic in nature, helps in preventing the transmission of infection.
Include lots of foods which are high in vitamin C in the diet as vitamin C helps in boosting the immune system. A strong, healthy immune system, built by taking a healthy diet, is better equipped to fight a bacterial infection. Foods rich in vitamin C are oranges, lemon, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes and papaya. Foods rich in zinc are also considered to be very good for the immune system, so consume zinc rich foods such as chicken, salmon, lobster, bananas, avocados and blackberries. Garlic is a natural antibiotic, so eat three-four cloves of garlic every day to fight the infection.
- Gargle three times a day with warm water with a pinch of salt in it as it will soothe the dry, itchy throat and make food swallowing easier.
- Apply throat sprays or take some throat lozenges, to reduce the swelling of the throat.
- Refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol as this may aggravate the condition.
Use these home remedies in combination with your medical treatment and after consulting the doctor, for better results.
If the bacterial infection symptoms last for more than four days accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever above 101 °F, difficulty in breathing, severe headache and earache, blood in the phlegm or saliva, phlegm or nasal discharge which is green or yellow in color, and mouth ulcers, contact a doctor immediately as it means that the bacterial infection has become severe and there is a possibility of the person contracting an ear infection or tonsillitis.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.