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What You Need to Know About Strep Throat This Winter
When most people think of winter illness, cold and flu season often comes first to mind. Strep throat, though, is one of the most dreaded and uncomfortable cold weather maladies of all. Strep throat is easily spread, and a contagious bacterial infection responsible for causing pain and inflammation in the throat. It is particularly common in children, though millions of adults contract the illness every year as well.
If you find yourself waking up one morning with an especially sore throat, it may be more than the start of a cold or dryness in the air. Here’s what you need to know about strep throat, and what you can do if you think you’ve caught it.
How Do People Get Strep Throat?
Unlike the common cold, influenza and norovirus, strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus (group A). Similar to viruses, though, streptococcus bacteria are easily spread by coughing or sneezing, as well as sharing of food or drink with an infected person. Schoolchildren are particularly susceptible to strep throat, as the bacteria spreads very effectively in confined, populated spaces.
Recurrent bouts of strep throat are most common in children 15 years of age and younger, but anyone can get sick if they come into contact with individuals infected by group A Streptococcus bacteria.
How Do I Know if it’s Strep? What are the Signs?
Strep throat cannot be accurately diagnosed without a doctor’s evaluation, but there are a handful of warning signs to keep an eye out for. These include:
- Severe sore throat which does not subside quickly
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen, red tonsils
- Red spots at the back of the mouth
- Body Aches
If symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, you may well have strep throat and require medical evaluation.
How is Strep Throat Treated? What if I Don’t Seek Treatment?
While symptoms may suggest strep throat, a rapid antigen test or throat culture can be performed to confirm or deny the presence of bacterial infection. If strep throat is diagnosed, the most common course of treatment is with a combination of oral antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen. Once treatment is started, patients typically begin feeling better within a day or two.
Though the majority of cases of strep throat resolve with treatment, potential complications do exist. Untreated, strep bacteria may spread to other parts of the body, including the sinuses, tonsils and middle ear. Inflammatory illnesses such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, inflammation of the kidney and poststreptococcal reactive arthritis may also occur if the illness is left untreated.
If you or a family member are battling a sore throat this winter and experience any of the warning signs of strep throat, be sure to visit ConvenientMD for medical evaluation. Our expert medical team will help create a treatment plan that will have you feeling better again as quickly as possible.