Streptococcal Pharyngitis: Got Strep Throat?


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One of the classic signs of strep throat is white stripes or patches in the back of the throat. Photo by: James Heilman, MD

Streptococcal pharyngitis: It’s commonly known as strep throat and it makes your throat feel painfully sore and scratchy. However, not all sore throats are strep throats, you can also have a sore throat from a cold or from allergies. How do you know the difference, and what should you do if you catch strep throat?

According to the Mayo Clinic, strep throat is most common in children ages five to 15, but can affect people of all ages. Strep throat can cause complications, so it is good to know the signs and symptoms and what to do to avoid complications.

What is Strep Throat, and How Did I Get It?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can cause pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, and red and swollen tonsils that may have white patches on them. You may also have swollen lymph nodes (on the side of your neck), fever, headache, vomiting (especially in young children), a rash and fatigue.

So how did you get this miserable illness? Just by being near someone who had strep throat. Strep throat can spread through droplets in the air, so when someone coughs or sneezes, you can pick it up.

Sharing food and drinks, and touching contaminated surfaces can also spread the germs and infect someone else. Interestingly, research presented on May 4th at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society says that your chances of reinfecting yourself from a toothbrush are slim, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

If you think you may have strep throat, it is important to see your doctor as strep throat can result in complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.

Streptococcal Pharyngitis: Feeling Better

If you have strep throat, you will most likely be pretty miserable and will want to go to the doctor so you can start feeling better! To diagnose strep throat, the doctor will look for symptoms of strep throat, he/she will feel your lymph nodes to check for swelling and check the inside of your throat for white patches and redness. Along with the physical exam, the doctor will also do a throat culture.

A simple swabbing of the back of your throat and tonsils with a sterile swab will tell your doctor – sometimes they send the swab to a lab, and sometimes they use an in-office test with faster results. If you do have strep throat, your doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic. Once you have taken the antibiotic for 48 hours, you should start to feel better. And once you are fever free for 24 hours, you can return to school or work without being contagious. However, it is important to take all of your antibiotic to prevent recurrences – even if you feel better.

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