Strep throat or Streptococcal pharyngitis or Streptococcal sore throat is a throat infection characterized by inflammation of throat, tonsils and lymph nodes caused by Streptococcus spp Group A bacteria―Streptococcus pyogenes. It is a common disease affecting children between ages 5 and 15, though it can affect adults and middle-aged people as well. Its occurrence is more in fall and autumn seasons as well as winters, since that's the season when the viruses and bacteria are in their highly active state. Strep throat is very often preceded by sore throat, which is a viral infection characterized by runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. The severity of sore throat is less and it can get cured without treatment. It is not very severe either but requires medication in the form of antibiotics.
The time period begins from the invasion of the pathogen in the body till the appearance of the symptoms; which is roughly 2 to 5 days with an average of maximum 3 days. It is highly contagious and remains so for around 3 weeks even though the symptoms vanish. Antibiotic therapy can relieve from contiguity. The diagnosis is done by a "throat culture" lab test taken by doctors which gives effective results within 10 minutes and the person is tested positive or negative. This is a foolproof test as compared to the "rapid strep test" which is not so accurate.
- Severe sore throat without the normal symptoms of coughing and sneezing
- Pain and difficulty in swallowing
- High fever of 101°F
- Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes
- Bright red throat with white patches
- Dark red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Pus formation on tonsils
- Gray or white covering on tonsils
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint stiffness
- Excessive sweating
- Body weakness
- Rashes all over the body (particularly on neck), known as scarlet fever
Antibiotics are most effective against all bacterial infections. Doctors, after diagnosing the disease, often recommend the use of penicillin, cephalexin, azithromycin, cefadroxil, cefprozil, or amoxicillin to treat strep throat. Use of antibiotics is highly advisable, because they prevent the complications caused later like spreading onto other body parts like the ear and causing serious conditions like rheumatic fevers. Antibiotics should be taken only after confirmation of the test. Meanwhile, the body can develop its own resistance to the condition by developing antibodies against the bacteria and decrease the chances of second time infection by the same. In adults, it is easy to cure than in children because of good immunity. For pain relief or discomfort, doctors prescribe the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen or anesthetic throat sprays for the patients.
- Garlic, sage, or chamomile tea (any herbal tea) have natural antibiotic properties which help relieve pain and inflammation of the throat and the respiratory system. They prevent dehydration and soften the throat tissue as well. You can use any one of them.
- Gargling with salt water has been an age-old practice to reduce throat pain. It actually kills the bacteria invading the area. Saline nasal sprays help relieve the congestion caused by mucus. Try doing this.
- Avoid spicy and oily food as well as hot and cold beverages, since they can irritate the throat and slow down the healing process.
- Avoid inhaling chemicals or irritants like the cigar smoke or alcohol vapors since they disturb the throat tract.
- Make sure you keep the surroundings around you, warm and use an air humidifier, if you have been diagnosed with the disease.
- Drink lots of fluids like water and soups, and feed on soft, easy-to-digest foods.
We all are aware of the fact that prevention is better than cure. So avoid being in contact with an infectious person and avoid sharing of towels or utensils with him/her. Wash your hands regularly and maintain good hygiene. This condition is not fatal and the incubation period is not long, either. Early diagnosis and proper medication can cure it.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.