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What Causes Recurring Strep Throat in Adults?

Frequent episodes of strep throat in adults is something serious, which needs medical attention as soon as possible. In most cases, recurring strep throat is treated with tonsillectomy procedure. This HealthHearty article explores ways as to why you may be experiencing it.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: Mar 14, 2018
The streptococcus group of bacteria are the causal organisms behind strep infection in the throat. It is basically considered as a childhood illness due to the high occurrence rate in this age group. But the fact is, adults are also affected by this bacterial infection. Though strep throat is rarely serious or life-threatening, the symptoms are difficult to deal with. It almost always accompanies throat soreness, and other infection signs, like fever and skin rashes.

It can result in pain and discomfort, ultimately leading to surgery in worse conditions. Any case of recurring strep throat, whether in children or adults, should be diagnosed by a trusted doctor. This article tells you why you may be experiencing frequent strep throat and what all you can do about it.

Causes of Recurrent Strep Throat in Adults

A patient with strep throat experiences throat pain that worsens immediately, swelling of the throat area, difficulty in swallowing food, enlargement of cervical lymph nodes, and nauseated feeling. With recurring strep throat infections, these symptoms occur and go repeatedly. If left untreated, a lingering strep throat may worsen and cause scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and other medical complications. Also, it is a contagious disease, spread by respiratory secretions. Considering all these factors, it is necessary to take the doctor's advice for treating a recurring case of strep throat.

Once in the hospital, the doctor will examine the physical symptoms and perform throat culture along with diagnostic procedures to confirm strep infection. Repeated occurrence in adults is an indication that the pathogenic bacteria are present in the throat area even after treatment. This may be because of having strep bacteria resistant to antibiotics or adopting wrong treatment. Another probable cause is stopping antibiotic treatment without completing the course as suggested by the doctor. When the patient becomes weak, or is under stress, the pathogens become active and divide profusely to cause infection symptoms. A majority of adults have repeated occurrences because of having a weakened immune system.

What to Do about Recurring Strep Throat?

For occasional incidences, therapeutic intervention calls for administration of strep throat antibiotics. They are effective in minimizing the chances of spreading infection to healthy people, complications, and reducing the length of disease by about 16 hours. However, having antibacterial therapy for doesn't make sense. The ingested medications not only kill the virulent strep bacteria, but they act upon other beneficial bacteria in the body. In such a case, there is an increased risk for viral and fungal infections.

So, is there a cure for recurring strep throat? Not really, and treatment option is decided based on the patient's condition. If repeated strep infections (seven times or more) occur in a year in spite of correct antibiotic treatment for strep throat, the doctor may consider removal of tonsils (tonsillectomy). This is because most patients of recurring strep throat have bacteria in their tonsils. Of course, the doctor will confirm it first, and weigh the benefits of having surgery prior to performing tonsillectomy. Also, preliminary medical test procedures are conducted to see whether the patient can be a candidate for surgery or not.

The outcome of removal of tonsils is impressive. Those who have had their tonsils removed get fewer episodes of strep throat in the following years. However, the effectiveness of tonsil removal for addressing recurrent strep infection is limited to adults only. In children, incidences of strep infections are reduced for the first two years after surgery, and not after that. As per medical data, children with intact tonsils also had fewer episodes of strep throat with passing years. Thus, the bottom line is, removing tonsils is not a reliable procedure for treatment of recurring sore throat in children.

Other than tonsillectomy, there is no specific therapeutic intervention for recurring strep throat in adults. For people who cannot participate in surgery, following home remedies and advocating prescription medications to manage symptoms are the right approaches.
  • Speaking about prevention, a practical solution to follow the doctor's directions stringently, particularly in terms of completing antibiotic course.
  • Needless to mention, one should follow personal hygiene and stay fit by consuming healthy diet, managing stress, and participating in physical activities.
  • Wash your hands frequently using antibacterial soap after every meal and even using the washroom.
  • Do not share drinks or utensils with anyone and also stay away from those who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing.

The best way to prevent it is by following good hygiene practices and getting it treated as early as possible. As they say, 'Prevention is better that cure.'

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject. Please seek immediate medical help in case of serious issues.