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Strep Throat in Adults

Strep Throat in Adults

Strep throat is a common infection of the pharynx which results in soreness of the throat. Here is some information about strep throat in adults, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: May 30, 2018
Strep throat or streptococcal pharyngitis is a bacterial infection that affects the mucous lining of the throat (pharynx), tonsils, and in some cases the voice box (larynx). Streptococcal pharyngitis is caused by the gram positive bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes belonging to the group A of streptococcus infections (abbreviated as GAS). Even though this throat infection is more common amongst kids and teens, it affects adults as well.

Streptococcal pharyngitis is a contagious infection which can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected individual. The infection usually spreads as a result of contact with mucous, saliva, contaminated toothbrush, or utensils. Kissing an infected individual, staying cooped in a poorly ventilated environment, and smoking can also cause strep throat in adults.

The throat provides a conducive environment for the causal bacteria to thrive and thus, allows for it to survive for several months without showing any symptoms. Therefore, strep throat is often unintentionally transmitted by an asymptomatic individual to others.

Symptoms of Strep Throat
The symptoms of strep throat are unlike those of the common cold or sore throat, caused by other viral infections. Symptoms such as, a runny nose, reddened eyes, sneezing, and coughing are not caused by strep throat. Notable signs of this bacterial infection are:
  • Sore throat
  • Acute pain while swallowing
  • Dryness of the throat
  • Enlarged tonsils and uvula
  • Exudate or threads of pus on the tonsils
  • Reddish spots (petechiae) on the soft or hard palate of the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever (about 101 °F)
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Pressure in the ear and head
  • Abdominal pain

A medical diagnosis is done based on the symptoms and medical history of the patient. A proper examination is carried out through a throat swab so as to determine the presence of the causal bacteria. A strep throat infection must be treated as soon as possible in order to avoid further complications. Apart from the basic visual examination of the throat, the following tests may also be carried out:

Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT)
In the antigen detection test, a sample from the tonsils or back of the throat is taken with the help of a long cotton swab and examined for the streptococcus bacterium. A negative result does not necessarily nullify the possibility of streptococcal pharyngitis. Based on the condition of the patient's throat, the doctor may prescribe an appropriate treatment for strep throat.

Throat Culture
Throat culture test is considered as the most suitable option for diagnosing strep throat infections, and is thus approved as the gold standard test. Almost similar to the RADT test, material from the throat is collected through a swab. Thereafter, this sample is cultured in a suitable medium in order to analyze the presence of disease-causing microorganisms. The sample requires time to yield accurate results and may take up to 48 hours.

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics such as penicillin or its derivatives, that have proven to be effective against streptococcal pharyngitis. Those who are intolerant to penicillin, are prescribed antibiotics such as Azithromycin, Erythromycin, and Clarithromycin for treating this bacterial throat infection. Certain compatible pain relief medicines are also prescribed for relieving the intense throat ache.

The patient continues to remain contagious during the treatment, and must be allowed to recover completely. The patient may also be asked to wear a mask, so as to prevent airborne droplets from infecting others. It is also advisable to continue taking antibiotics as per the advice of the physician. Failure to take the complete antibiotic course increases the chances of a relapse.

The physician may also recommend home remedies for strep throat, such as saline water gargle, drinking plenty of lukewarm soup, juices, herbal tea, and avoiding spicy food. Proper rest and sleep are equally important for a speedy recovery.

Even though the symptoms of streptococcal pharyngitis gradually subside without the administration of medications, the lack of resistance causes the patient to remain contagious for several days despite having recovered. Antibiotics also help prevent the occurrence of complications, that can result from an acute strep throat infection. The following health complications can arise in case a strep throat infection is left untreated:
  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys)
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome
  • Peritonsillar abscess (pus formation)

The best way to prevent strep throat is to maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness. Strep throat must ideally be treated within the first 24 hours from the onset of the symptoms, so as to prevent the condition from worsening.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be substituted for the advice of a medical practitioner.