Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy and accounts for only a small portion of sore throat.
It is due to a bacteria group A Streptococcus. Sneezing and coughing can spread the infection from one person to another.
However, if you do not get timely treatment, it can cause complications like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever can lead to pain and joint inflammation, a specific type of rash, or heart valve damage.
It is important to note that strep throat is most common amongst children, but it also affects individuals of all ages.
Thus, if you or your child is showing any symptoms of strep throat, you should consult your doctor for prompt testing and treatment.
Keep on reading to learn more about strep throat and how it is different from sore throat, common cold, and mono.
Strep Throat Symptoms
Strep throat is an infection due to bacteria and it is important to note that the severity of strep throat can vary from one person to another.
Some individuals might experience mild symptoms like a sore throat.
However, others may have more severe symptoms like fever and difficulty swallowing.
The common symptoms of strep throat are as follows:
A sudden fever, especially if it is 101 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher, a sore, red throat with white patches, a headache, and chills.
Moreover, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and trouble swallowing are among the common signs and symptoms.
It is important to note that these symptoms usually develop within 5 days of exposure to the strep bacteria.
Is It Contagious?
Yes! Strep throat is a highly contagious bacterial infection.
It often spreads through small respiratory droplets that become airborne when your sneeze or cough.
When you are exposed to these respiratory droplets, and touch your mouth, nose, or eye, you may contract strep throat.
Thus, if you come in contact with it, it can take 2 to 5 days for you to develop symptoms.
Causes of Strep Throat
Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes or group A Streptococcus. It is also termed group A strep or GAS.
It is important to note that you can come in contact with this bacteria if you touch your mouth, nose, or mouth after exposure.
Apart from coughing and sneezing, it can also spread through contained food and beverages.
Moreover, you can also get this infection if you touch a contaminated object like a doorknob or faucet, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Diagnosis of Strep Throat
If you experience any of the following, visit your doctor:
A sore throat that lasts longer than 2 days, dark, red splotches, or spots on the tonsils or the top of your mouth.
A sore throat with white patches, a throat with a fine, sandpaper-like pink rash on the skin, and difficulty swallowing.
During the examination, your doctor will look at the throat and check for the signs of any inflammations.
They may also check for swollen lymph nodes in your neck and ask about other symptoms.
Moreover, if they suspect you have a sore throat, they may perform a rapid strep test in the office.
This test helps to determine whether your sore throat is due to step infection or another type of bacteria or germ.
They will also swab the back of your throat with a long cotton swab, to collect a sample, and this is observed under a microscope to look for the signs of bacteria.
The results of this test are available in about 5 minutes and if the test is negative, but your doctor thinks it is strep throat, they may send the sample for additional testing.
These tests are available within a few days.
As strep throat is a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic treatments.
These antibiotics stop the spread of bacteria and infections. There are a number of antibiotics available in the market.
Bear in mind that you need to finish the antibiotic treatment course to kill the infection completely.
If you stop taking the medications after your symptoms improve, this can trigger a relapse.
If this happens, the symptoms can return.
Penicillin and amoxicillin are the most common antibiotics doctors prescribe.
However, if you are allergic to penicillin or amoxicillin, your doctor may prescribe the antibiotic azithromycin.
Additionally, with antibiotics, you can use certain at-home remedies to relieve the symptoms of strep throat.
These remedies are as follows:
Drinking warm liquids like lemon water, and tea, drinking cold liquids to numb the throat and turning on a cool-mist humidifier.
Using OTC or over-the-counter medications to relieve pain like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, sucking on throat lozenges, and adding 1/2 tsp of salt to 1 cup of water, and gargling the mixture.
Moreover, natural remedies like honey and apple cider vinegar can also help.
Preventing Strep Throat
To this date, there is no vaccine available for strep throat, thus one of the most effective ways to prevent is by regularly washing your hands.
However, if you cannot access soap or water, make sure to use a hand sanitizer instead.
Also, do not share drinks or foods with someone who is suffering from strep throat. If someone in your home is suffering from it, then do not share towels, sheets. or pillowcase.
Wash the dishes and laundry in water that is both hot and soapy.
Moreover, if you yourself are suffering from strep throat, sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow or use tissue paper instead of your hand.
Make sure to wash your hands frequently.
Strep Thorat in Different Age Groups
It is important to note that strep throat is most common in children, however, parents of school-going children are also likely to be affected by it.
Moreover, if you are frequently around children, you are more suspectable to it.
Although children are more suspectable of strep throat than adults, it is rare in toddlers under the age of 3.
It mostly occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 15.
As it is highly contagious, it can also spread where children congregate, like in a daycare center or school.
The bacteria that causes strep throat, group A streptococcus is different from group r streptococcus, which is found in the vagina or rectum.
While group B strep can pass from you to your baby, it is unrelated to the bacteria that causes strep throat.
However, if you think you are suffering from this during pregnancy, consult your doctor to discuss the treatment options.
They may prescribe antibiotics and will also carefully monitor your medications.
Using Essential Oil
Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, bark, stems, and flowers of the plants and can help promote healing by killing germs and reducing inflammation.
The use of essential oils for treating medical conditions is controversial, however, studies suggest that the following essential oils can be an effective alternative to OTC medications:
Thyme, lavender, tea tree, wild carrot, eucalyptus, and rosemary blend.
Moreover, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, ginger, and garlic oil can also help.
Many doctors and researchers do not recommend investing in these oils.
Instead, you can inhale them or use them in diluted form and add them to your bath.
Strep Thorat vs. Cold
Most common colds are due to viruses while a bacterial infection causes strep throat.
If you have a common cold, you will have symptoms like coughing, a runny nose, and hoarseness.
It is important to note that the above symptoms especially coughing is not common with strep throat.
When your throat is sore due to a cold, the pain will develop gradually and will disappear in a few days.
However, the pain from strep throat often occurs suddenly and is more severe and persistent for days.
Common cold usually clears up on its own without any medical treatment.
To prevent complications like rheumatic fever, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat.
Infectious mononucleosis or mono or commonly known as the kissing disease if due to the presence of the Epstein-Barr Virus.
It most often affects teenagers and young adults.
Just like strep throat, mono symptoms include a sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph glands, however, mono is a viral infection.
On the other hand, strep throat is a bacterial infection.
It is important to note that you cannot treat mono with antibiotics. Your doctor will perform tests to determine whether your sore throat is due to mono or not.
VS. Sore Throat
Sore throat is caused due to the presence of a virus, while group A strep bacteria cause strep throat.
However not all sore throats are a result of strep infection. Other medical conditions that can cause a sore throat are:
A common cold, a sinus infection, postnatal drip, and acid reflux.
It is important to note that sore throat due to other medical conditions often improves in their own or without treatment in a few days.
Recovering from Strep Throat
To reduce your risk of complications, consult your doctor if you have symptoms of strep throat and they do not improve within 48 hours.
They may prescribe a different antibiotic to fight the infections.
If you do not get treatment, it can cause serious complications.
These may include ear infection, sinusitis, rheumatic fever which is an inflammation of kidneys, and scarlet fever.
Moreover, it can result in post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, mastoiditis, guttate psoriasis, and peritonsillar abscess.
Strep throat is due to a bacteria called group a streptococcus and can cause different symptoms, however, it is different from a common cold, sore throat, and mono. It is due to a bacterial infection and you can treat it with the help of antibiotics.
With the help of throat culture, your doctor will diagnose it and prescribe antibiotics.
You will start to feel better within a few days after the treatment begins, however, if you do not have a fever, you can return to work or school after 24 hours after beginning antibiotics.