Strep throat diagnosis is essential because if left unattended or untreated then the condition can give rise to severe complications in the body.
The throat is among those parts of the body that remain susceptible to contract infections. And when it gets affected by an infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, the condition is known as strep throat; one of the most common medical issues deal by doctors. The classic symptom of this infection is the throat feeling sore, and scratchy. This occurs because the infection causes the throat to suffer inflammation and get irritated. This infection is known to affect people of all ages, but also has the reputation of affecting children between 5 – 15 years of age.
An important fact to be known about strep throat is that, the disease in itself is not dangerous, but its complications may. The major complications which can show up as a result of the condition include infection of the tonsils and sinuses, skin infection, middle ear infection, and even blood infection. And in worse cases, conditions such as scarlet fever, kidney inflammation can also arise; and a serious condition that can affect the major organs of the body, known as rheumatic fever. So, earlier the treatment is initiated, the better are the chances for successful recovery.
How is Strep Throat Diagnosed
At the doctor’s, the patient is generally examined for any signs and symptoms, which are as follows:
- Fever (more than 101 °F), may be accompanied by a skin rash which is not so common though
- Pain while swallowing food or liquid
- If the infection reaches the tonsils, then they would swell up, and become red and warm
- The area at the back of the roof of the mouth may develop tiny red spots
- Belly pain
- Poor appetite
- Body aches
- Vomiting in children
In order to determine the presence of bacteria, the diagnosis includes procedures such as throat culture test, rapid antigen test, and a DNA test.
Usually, the rapid antigen test is preferred, as it takes relatively lesser time to provide the results. In this test, the doctor rubs a sterile swab at the back of the throat and tonsils. And this swab is examined in the lab for the presence of any antigens in the throat. The test can detect the infection in minutes, and if the result comes out positive then antibiotic treatment is initiated. However, this particular test may miss out certain strep infections, and when it is so, the throat culture test is recommend.
Throat culture takes a longer time to deliver results, but is more accurate than the rapid antigen test. Here the cotton swab is rubbed over the same places as mentioned above, in order to collect samples. And these samples are cultured in a lab. In this way, doctors can accurately diagnose the infection. However, the only drawback is, results may take as long as 48 hours to come.
The use of rapid DNA test for diagnosing strep throat has been newly introduced. As the name suggests, this test makes use of DNA to detect the infection. It is known to maintain the same accuracy as that of the throat culture, and at the same time, delivering results in a relatively shorter time.
Antibiotics are the first choice of treatment. They help in managing the symptoms, reduce the duration, and prevent the spread of the infection to others. Also with the help of medications, the likelihood of the infection to give rise to complications, is greatly reduced. Penicillin and amoxicillin are the two common antibiotics that are prescribed.
Some people may develop allergy from these drugs. So for them, the doctor may prescribe other types of antibiotics. It does not take more than a day or two for the patient to start feeling better. However, it is important that the total course of the antibiotics is completed, lest the strep throat may recur and cause severe complications.
Antibiotics do help in eliminating the bacteria, but following a few self-care measures at home may help in speeding up the recovery. These may include getting plenty of rest, keeping the body hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids, and eating foods that are soothing to the throat. Gargling with warm saline water greatly helps in alleviating throat pain. Using a humidifier to keep the moisture in the air at an even level, and avoiding irritants like smoke, dust, fumes, etc., also keep the symptoms from worsening.