Sore throats are a common health complaint. While most sore throats will resolve on their own with at-home remedies, strep throat often requires specific care and treatment. Because strep throat is the cause of around 1/3 of all sore throat complaints, it is important to understand the difference, symptoms and treatment plan.
Causes of Strep Throat
While a typical sore throat can be caused by such things as allergies, air pollution or a virus, strep throat is strictly caused by a bacteria. This bacteria, which is group A streptococcus, affects the back of the throat and tonsils, making them irritated and swollen.
How Do You Get Strep Throat?
Because it is caused by a highly contagious bacteria, strep throat can be easily transferred from person to person. The group A streptococcus resides in the nose and throat, so whenever an infected person coughs, sneezes or shakes hands with others, they can easily pass it around through the respiratory droplets holding that bacteria.
While it is more common in young children and teens, anyone can catch the bacteria and become sick. The risk of catching strep also increases when young people are in large groups where everyone is in close contact like day cares and schools.
Signs and Symptoms of Strep Throat
With strep throat, the soreness will often develop very quickly and be more severe than a regular sore throat. Other common signs frequently include:
- Red and swollen tonsils
- Red and white patches in the throat
- Painful or swollen neck glands
- Trouble swallowing
- Loss of appetite
How a Strep Throat Infection is Diagnosed
The only way to know for sure if you have strep throat is by checking the bacteria in your throat. A doctor cannot know for sure simply by a visual examination. A common method used to diagnose the illness is called the rapid strep test. This test involves taking a quick throat swab. As the name suggests, the rapid strep test results are delivered quickly, often within just a few minutes.
Another test to diagnose strep involves taking a throat culture. This test is more accurate but is used less frequently because the results take longer.
Treatment and Potential Side Effects
Like with most illnesses, treatment for strep involves plenty of fluids and rest. Doctors will often prescribe antibiotics to lessen the infection and the length of time that you feel sick.
While it is not common, serious side effects can result from strep, such as:
- Abbesses around the tonsils
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
- Scarlet fever
- Rheumatic fever
Early and proactive treatment can help prevent more serious issues from occurring if your throat soreness is a result of strep.
What to Do If You Think You Have Strep Throat
If you think you have some of the symptoms of strep throat, it is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Dr. Nguyen of Houston Sinus & Allergy is an ENT specialist and has over 20 years of experience diagnosing, treating and easing the symptoms of throat conditions for Houston-area patients. If you have any questions or would like to book an assessment, reach out to Dr. Nguyen today.