If you work in an office or public place, or if you have young children in school, chances are high that you’ve either seen or heard about symptoms of strep throat. As one of many infections that affect the respiratory, sinus, and esophageal systems, it can be difficult to identify accurately. So what, exactly is Strep Throat – and how can you treat or prevent it?
Strep throat is common (especially in children) and a relatively mild infection caused by a bacterium called Group A Streptococcus. It is most common in the late fall and winter months. Its symptoms usually include a sudden onset of sore throat and pain while swallowing; fever; red, swollen, or inflamed tonsils, sometimes with white streaks; and swollen lymph nodes at the front of the neck. Other symptoms, such as coughing, runny nose, a hoarse voice, and redness in the eyes are actually not commonly associated with strep throat and are more likely to point to a viral infection, such as the common cold. In other cases, a fever that presents with a sore throat, body aches, headaches, lethargy, or coughing can be indicative of the flu virus, rather than strep bacteria.
Children are more prone to the disease, with as many as 25% of young sore throat sufferers having the infection (compared to just 10% of adults). It mostly affects children between 5-15 years of age, and is unlikely to be found in kids younger than 3 years old.
How Do You Get Strep Throat?
As with many other infections, the strep bacteria live in the oral and nasal cavities of a person and can easily be transmitted when they cough or sneeze. If you are in close quarters with someone who is already infected with Strep Throat, your risk factor increases.
How To Diagnose Strep Throat
Usually, the immune system of the body will respond to the bacteria within 2-4 days, easing the sore throat and gradually lessening the other symptoms. Since strep throat is a bacterial infection, if it is identified properly, the correct course of antibiotics can be administered. A Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT), which is a quick and accurate 5-minute throat swab that can be completed. Based on the results, a medical practitioner can give treatment for strep throat, or recommend further testing back at the lab.
How To Treat Strep Throat
For most people, penicillin is enough to treat a strep infection – unless you happen to be allergic! In that case, other antibiotics can be used in its place. Over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil can be used to manage symptoms. We also recommend plenty of fluids to aid with recovery.
To avoid the spread of the disease, anyone suffering from an infection should be kept out of school, work, day care, etc. for at least 24 hours after the antibiotic treatment has begun. Be sure to wash your hands often (for at least 20 seconds with soap), cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and to be aware of anyone with symptoms around you!
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