Strep throat is a sore throat caused by bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus.
“Sore throat” is the general term for any condition where the throat feels scratchy, tender, and possibly painful. A sore throat, however, is caused by a specific strain of bacteria.
In this article, we will cover the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of strep throat.
Fast facts on strep throat
- The bacteria group A streptococcus causes strep throat.
- The bacteria streptococcal are exceedingly infectious.
- Because their immune systems have had less exposure to infections, children are more vulnerable than adults.
- If your sore throat is making it difficult to breathe, consult a doctor right once.
- A throat swab is frequently used to diagnose strep throat.
What is strep throat?
Strep throat, also known as Streptococcal pharyngitis or Streptococcal sore throat, is a bacterial infection that is always caused by bacteria.
Streptococcal bacteria are bacteria that cause streptococcal infections.
When a sick person sneezes or coughs, a trusted source can travel via the air and spread through droplets.
People can also get infected by contacting surfaces that have previously been touched by an infected person, such as doorknobs, kitchen utensils, or bathroom goods.
The majority of sore throats are not dangerous, and the infected individual normally recovers without therapy within 3-7 days.
Because younger people’s bodies have not been exposed to as many viruses and germs as older people’s, they have not built up immunity to many of them, sore throats are more common among children and adolescents.
It is not uncommon for people of any age to have a couple of bouts of sore throats in a 1-year period.
Symptoms of strep throat
The symptoms of strep throat are similar to a sore throat; these include:
- Pain in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- loss of appetite.
- Tonsils are painful and swollen, sometimes with white patches and/or streaks of pus.
- Very small red spots may appear on the soft part of the palate (roof of the mouth).
- Nodes (lymph glands) in the neck are swollen and tender.
Conversely, people with strep throat may sometimes have no signs or symptoms – these people might not feel ill, but they can still pass the infection onto other people.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, a sore throat is just one of the symptoms of the common cold and will resolve itself in a few days. However, you should see a doctor if:
- After a few weeks, the symptoms are still present.
- Sore throats are common, and they don’t respond to pain relievers.
- If you have a persistent fever, you may have an infection that needs to be detected and treated very once. Infections can cause breathing difficulties as well as other consequences.
- There are respiratory problems (urgently).
- It’s tough to swallow saliva or fluids.
- Drooling becomes a common occurrence.
- When someone has HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or is getting chemotherapy, radiotherapy, steroids, or immunosuppressant drugs, their immune system is weakened.
- The urine turns cola-colored, indicating that the kidneys have been infected with the streptococcus bacteria.
Diagnosis of strep throat
The doctor will examine the patient and look for signs of strep throat or throat infection.
It is virtually impossible to know, initially, whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. Some viral infections of the throat may have worse signs than those caused by streptococcal bacteria.
Consequently, the doctor may order one or more of the following tests to find out what is causing the infection:
- Throat culture: a swab is rubbed against the back of the throat and tonsils to test for the actual bacteria. It is not painful but may tickle, and the patient may have a temporary gagging sensation.
- This test can detect strep bacteria in minutes from the swab sample by looking for antigens (parts of the bacteria) in the throat.
- Rapid DNA test: DNA technology is used to identify strep throat infection.
Treatment of strep throat
In most cases, sore throats do not require treatment and will resolve themselves within a week. OTC medications may help relieve symptoms.
Patients with stomach or kidney problems should not take aspirin or ibuprofen. The following tips may also help manage a sore throat:
- Hot foods and drinks should be avoided because they can irritate the throat.
- Symptoms can be relieved with cool liquids and soft foods.
- Warm liquids (but not too hot) may also be beneficial.
- Smoking, as well as smoky settings, irritates the throat.
- Taking ice cubes in your mouth can help relieve symptoms (beware of giving them to young children).
- Gargling with mouthwash, preferably mildly salted warm water, can help minimise swelling and soreness.
Unless the patient has been diagnosed with a bacterial infection, antibiotics should not be used. In fact, experts say that even in the case of bacterial throat infections, antibiotics do not seem to be any more effective than normal pain-killing OTC medications.
According to one study, using honey to treat coughs in children could be a useful alternative to cough drugs. Honey, on the other hand, should not be given to children under the age of 12 months due to the danger of botulism (a type of food poisoning).
Antibiotics are often administered only when the likelihood of a bacterial infection is high. Doctors may also treat with antibiotics without testing for bacteria if the patient has a weak immune system, which increases the risk of infection-related problems.
Patients with a history of cardiac disease or rheumatic fever may also be at risk. Antibiotics may be prescribed to patients who have a history of bacterial throat infections.
If strep throat is diagnosed with a rapid strep test or culture, a doctor will give antibiotics to clear the infection. In a very small percentage of people, the bacteria can cause rheumatic fever (bacterial particles affecting the heart) or kidney problems.
Tonsillectomy: if somebody, usually a child, has tonsillitis regularly (infection of the tonsils), a doctor may advise taking them out surgically (having a tonsillectomy).
Potential complications of strep throat
Strep throat is easy to treat; however, if it is left, there is a chance it may lead to complications, these can include:
- Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses.
- The infection may travel to the ear, skin, or blood.
- Mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid, a part of the skull behind the jaw.
- Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease.
- A peritonsillar abscess is a pus-filled pocket near the tonsils.
- Scarlet fever is caused by bacterial toxins and produces a scarlet rash.
- Guttate psoriasis is a type of psoriasis more common in children.
- Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis: inflammation of the kidneys.
Prevention of strep throat
Many doctors say there is not much we can do to prevent sore throats that are caused by bacterial or viral infections. The following tips may help reduce the frequency of sore throats, and probably help prevent complications:
- Nutrition: a well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, good quality fats (olive oil, avocado, etc.) and lean proteins will boost the immune system.
- Exercise: regular exercise helps the immune system.
- Get plenty of sleep. Without enough sleep, the immune system will eventually become weaker.
- Don’t smoke – people who smoke have significantly more bouts of sore throat compared to people who don’t, and they are also more susceptible to throat complications.
- Keep hands clean: regular hand washing with soap and water is an effective way of preventing most infections.
- Cover your mouth when coughing—this protects other people. Coughing into the inside of the elbow, rather than into the hands, also makes it less likely that surfaces will become contaminated when touched.
- Isolate personal items—drinking glasses and eating utensils, for example, should not be shared if they have been used by somebody who has a sore throat.