Strep is an infection caused by streptococcus bacteria. It is more commonly known as “strep throat” because one of the primary symptoms of strep is a scratchy and sore throat. Unlike a cold or the flu, strep throat symptoms do not include runny, stuffy sinuses, sneezing or coughing. Though it is more common in young children, strep throat can affect anyone. Left untreated, strep infection can spread and seriously damage the skin, sinuses, inner ear and even the bloodstream. That’s why getting a strep test is so important if you have symptoms of strep throat. A solid understanding of strep can help you avoid an infection as well as prevent its spreading.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
There are several signs to look for when determining if you have strep throat:
- Quick onset of throat pain that lasts over 48 hours
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen, red tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes, tender to the touch
- Small reddish spots in the roof of the mouth
- Fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius)
- Body aches
It is important to note that these symptoms are not specific to a strep infection and may be indicators of another illness or infection. That is why it is vital to plan on getting a strep test from a trusted doctor.
Types of Strep Tests
One of the first tests for confirming a strep infection is a rapid antigen strep test. In this procedure, your doctor will swab a secretion sample from the infected area in the mouth or throat. It is a painless procedure that takes only a second, and the test results are returned within minutes to determine if the physical signs are actually strep throat symptoms.
Another test that is commonly used before determining strep throat treatment is a throat culture. While rapid test results can be returned within minutes, results from a throat culture can take 24 to 48 hours. For a throat culture, a sample from the infected area of the throat is swabbed and placed on a culture dish that will enable the bacteria to grow in a lab and more precisely confirm a strep infection. Throat cultures are extremely accurate tests, while rapid tests have a 70-90% accuracy rate.
Strep Throat Treatment
Though each case varies, a typical strep throat treatment plan includes a prescription for an antibiotic and possibly an over-the-counter medication for pain. Amoxicillin and azithromycin are two common antibiotics used to combat strep throat, but there are a number of antibiotics your doctor may prescribe.
If you are prescribed an antibiotic, it is extremely important to complete the required dosage as directed. Strep bacteria can become resistant to certain antibiotics, so it is imperative to complete an adequate amount of whatever medication is prescribed. Not doing so can lead to further complications in the body, including kidney failure, rheumatic fever and heart problems.
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Preventing Strep Throat
Unfortunately, strep throat is a highly contagious infection, and there is no vaccine to prevent it. You can, however, consider these tips to help prevent any strep throat symptoms and/or infection:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially in hospitals, schools and public buildings. Be sure to wash your hands before and after preparing or consuming food, after using the bathroom, and while caring for someone who is sick.
- Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and after blowing your nose. If possible, sneeze or cough into a tissue or paper towel, and discard it immediately. If a tissue or paper towel is not readily available, cough into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands.
- Do not share food or drinks if someone in your family has strep throat. Wash all dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water.
If there are any concerns about strep throat in your household, we at Physicians Now are prepared and ready to assist with getting a strep test for you and, if confirmed, providing proper strep throat treatment. Contact us today.