Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and tonsils caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus. Strep can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. While strep throat accounts for only a small portion of all sore throats, it can in rare cases, if left untreated, cause complications such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. These complications, in turn, can lead to painful and inflamed joints, heart valve damage, or a particular rash. For this reason, strep needs to be diagnosed and treated early.
Strep throat is also very contagious (through droplets), so the potential of spreading the bacterium should be addressed early for the sake of others.
Treatment for strep throat typically includes antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin. Strep is usually cured within 10 days with proper treatment.
Symptoms of strep throat include:
- Throat pain that usually comes on quickly
- Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in your neck
- Painful swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with streaks of pus or white patches
- Fever, headache, rash, body aches
- Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children
- A sore throat accompanied by a rash or symptoms that last longer than 48 hours
- Problems breathing or swallowing
If you have signs of strep, you should call our clinic immediately and plan to come in for an acute care appointment for a prompt evaluation with a strep test. A strep test is painless and takes very little time. A provider will wipe the back of your throat with the tip of a cotton swab. The sample is then sent to a lab for evaluation. A rapid test usually takes only 20 minutes.
While strep is most common in children, it can affect people of all ages and cause infections in the tonsils, sinuses, skin, blood, and middle ear.
Strep can also lead to these rare inflammatory illnesses:
- Scarlet fever, a streptococcal infection characterized by a prominent rash
- Inflammation of the kidney (post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis)
- Rheumatic fever, a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system, and skin
- Poststreptococcal reactive arthritis, a condition that causes inflammation of the joints
To relieve the pain of sore or strep throat, try the following:
- Drink warm and soothing liquids such as tea
- Suck on lozenges
- Take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen
- Aspirin should not be given to children as it can cause Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening illness, in children and adolescents who have fevers
Other common sore throats do not need antibiotics, so why does strep throat?
The majority of sore throats are caused by viruses, which cannot be cured with antibiotics or other medicines. You can only relieve the symptoms of aches and pains.
Bacteria, however, like the one that causes strep, should be treated with antibiotics. Since strep can lead to more serious illnesses, antibiotic treatment is essential.
If you have been diagnosed with strep throat and are not improving after taking antibiotics for 48 hours, you should recontact our primary care or acute care clinic for further follow-up.
Call us today to receive individualized care and treatment for your sore throat symptoms: (828) 695-5900.