Strep Throat—More Than Just a Winter Annoyance
The long stretch of winter before spring begins to come back around can be a great time to hunker down by spending time with family, working on personal projects and more. It’s also a time of year when viral and bacterial infections are extremely common, especially given the amount of time people spend enclosed indoors with others when it’s cold outside. Colds and flus are problematic enough, but there’s another common illness we see at all of our ConvenientMD Urgent Care locations—strep throat.
Coming down with a case of strep throat can make just about anyone feel awful, but strep is more than just a mere winter annoyance. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications. In this Doctor’s Note, we discuss the basics of strep throat, as well as what to do if you think you may have contracted it.
What is Strep Throat?
Strep throat occurs as a result of an infection in the tonsils and throat by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes—also called “Group A Streptococcus.” The bacteria, which lives in the nose and throat, is easily spread from one person to another via close contact or cross-contamination of doorknobs, telephones and other objects.
Highly contagious, strep throat tends to affect children aged 5-15 more than other populations, though people of any age (including adults) can get sick from being exposed to strep bacteria.
What are the Symptoms of Strep Throat?
For many people, the symptoms of strep throat come on suddenly and often out of the blue. While everyone experiences strep throat differently, common symptoms include:
- Swollen, red tonsils
- Fever of 101 F or higher
- Extremely sore throat (often with fast onset)
- Painful swallowing
- White patches on the tonsils
- Swollen glands on the neck
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Loss of Appetite
In rare occurrences, a rash may be experienced as a symptom of strep throat—a sign that one should seek medical attention.
What are the complications of Strep Throat?
A case of strep throat can get better on its own without treatment. However, a number of complications can occur from strep throat if left untreated including ear infections, sinusitis and abscess of the tonsils. Most notably, however, is the risk of developing rheumatic fever or inflammation of the kidneys—both of which can cause serious, lasting health problems.
- Rheumatic Fever — Occurs when strep bacteria travels through the bloodstream and attaches to one of the heart valves.
- Abscess — Spread of infection to the tonsils in the form of a mass called a “peritonsillar abscess.” Must be treated immediately with incision and drainage and antibiotics and at times will require IV antibiotic therapy.
- Glomerulonephritis — Glomerulonephritis is inflammation of the kidneys and can occur when the immune system creates antibodies to attack strep bacteria.
Fortunately, these and other complications can be avoided with antibiotic treatment (the most common approach to treating strep throat). Symptoms should begin to fade within 48 hours of starting a course of antibiotics, and most people feel better within a week.
Is It Strep or Just a Sore Throat?
Sore throats are common throughout the winter months and can come from a number of different sources, including viruses, exposure to certain chemicals and even overly dry air. Though they may make people feel like they have strep throat, these types of sore throats generally get better with time and are not caused by bacterial infection. The only way to know for sure whether or not a sore throat is the result of strep is via a rapid strep swab or throat culture, which confirms the presence of strep.
Keep in mind that fever associated with strep throat in children should never be treated with aspirin, as doing so may result in Reye’s syndrome—a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage.
Ready to Feel Better? Visit ConvenientMD Today!
At ConvenientMD, we know just how much of a setback a case of strep throat can be, often knocking people off their feet and keeping them out of work for a week or longer. All of our locations are staffed by knowledgeable medical professionals who are ready to help get you back to living your life again while making you more comfortable in the process. If it’s strep, we’ve got you covered.
So don’t just assume it’s a run-of-the-mill sore throat. Visit ConvenientMD to get treated today—there’s no need to ever make an appointment!