Strep throat is a contagious disease which can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. It is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. It accounts for only a small portion of sore throats. Its symptoms include irritation, redness, inflammation, and sometimes pus build-up in the back of the throat.
Strep throat can affect kids and adults of all ages. But, it is particularly common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Coughing and sneezing can spread the infection from one person to another.
If left untreated, it can cause complications, like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can result in painful and swollen joints, rash, or heart valve damage.
Symptoms of throat infection
The severity of the infection can vary from person-to-person. Some individuals experience mild symptoms such as a sore throat, while others have more severe symptoms counting fever and difficulty swallowing. The common symptoms of infection include;
- Painful swallowing
- Sore and inflamed tonsils, sometimes with streaks of pus or white patches
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Nausea or vomiting, particularly in younger children
- Body aches
Typically, the symptoms develop within 5 days of exposure to the bacteria. It is possible for you to have many of these signs but not have strep throat. The cause of these signs could be a viral infection or some other disease. That is why your physician usually tests specifically for strep throat.
Causes of strep throat
The strep throat is caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes. It is also known as group A streptococcus.
These bacteria are very contagious and can spread through airborne drops when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared drinks or food. You can pick up the infection from any surface and transfer them to your mouth, nose or eyes. Moreover, there are several factors which can increase your risk of infection;
- Young age; it occurs most commonly in children.
- Time of year; although strep throat can occur anytime, it tends to circulate more commonly in winter and early spring.
Complications of strep throat
Although strep throat is not dangerous, it can lead to serious problems. However, antibiotic treatment reduces risk. Strep bacteria may spread, causing infection in;
- Middle ear
Strep infection may cause serious inflammatory diseases, including;
- Scarlet fever, it is a streptococcal infection which is characterized by a prominent rash
- Inflammation of the kidney
- Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory condition which can affect the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system
- Poststreptococcal reactive arthritis, a serious condition which causes inflammation of the joints
Prevention of strep throat
Doctors say there is not much we can do to prevent the conditions that are caused by viral or bacterial infections. However, the following tips may help reduce the occurrence of sore throats, and may help prevent further complications;
- Clean your hands; proper hand washing is the best way to prevent infections. That is why it is vital to clean your hands regularly and to teach your children how to wash their hands accurately using soap and water.
- Cover your mouth when coughing; teach your kids to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough to protect other people.
- Don’t share personal items; don’t share eating utensils or drinking glasses. Further, always try to wash your dishes in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.
When to see a doctor
Mostly, a sore throat is just one of the signs of the common cold and will resolve in a few days. However, call your health care professional if you or your child has any of these signs;
- A sore throat along with tender inflamed lymph glands
- A sore throat which lasts longer than 48 hours
- A Fever
- A sore throat accompanied by a rash
- Problems swallowing or breathing
- If strep throat has been diagnosed, a lack of any improvement after taking antibiotics for 48 hours