Strep Throat


A lot of people sat they have a strep throat when their throat is sore. The fact of the matter is that most have a sore throat along with the nasal congestion, post nasal drip from allergy or sinusitis, sneezing, and cough of a cold, or strep as it is inaccurately called, a viral upper respiratory infection generally are more liekly. A cold can inflame the mucous membranes and set them up for a strep infection. The bacteria, which cause a true strep throat, are Streptococcus pyogenes. These are spread from the respiratory droplets of an infected person, or on the surface of things on which those droplets have come in contact. The person is usually a lot sicker than one with a cold with the exception of someone who is a strep carrier without symptoms.

When doctors look at a real strep throat, it is usually fiery red. The throat sometimes has inflamed patches on the hard or soft palates. The tonsils are often swollen with patches of white exudates or pus on them. They may have a fruity rotten odor. The lymph nodes on the front of the neck are often swollen and very tender. Fever is a common finding, sometimes above 102, and returns after a dose of Tylenol or Motrin runs out. A person with strep throat is a lot sicker on most occasions than one with a cold. Strep throat is a small percentage of all sore throats but it is well known because of its complications, which very badly affect the heart and kidneys.

The doctor is the one who can make the definitive diagnosis of strep throat. This can be done with a throat culture, which takes a couple of days in the lab, or, more quickly by a Rapid Strep Test. Rapid Strep Test can be read right on the spot. Sometimes infectious mononucleosis can look a lot like strep, and the doctor may want to test for mono.

Treatment with a correct antibiotic usually makes a person with strep throat non-contagious in about 24 hours. The antibiotic should be taken for a full course to totally eradicate it. The antibiotics most often used are Pen VK, Cephalexin, Biaxin, Clindamycin, and Zithromax. The doctor may choose to give a shot of antibiotic if the patient has a severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing or base appropriate medical care on just on how the patient feels or appears.

Untreated strep throat can lead to complications. This was much more true in the pre-antibiotic era. It can lead to scarlet fever (severe skin rash), rheumatic fever (causes severe arthritis or degenerative heart valves), or glomerulonephritis (a severe inflammation of the kidneys). It is with these in mind that the doctor aggressively treats strep throat and difficulty swallowing. Epiglottis is a rare infection of the epiglottis by its sever swelling due to strep or any other dozen infections.

What you can do at home after seeing the doctor and being placed on antibiotics:

Gargle with warm salt water to decrease the pain
Treat fever or discomfort with Motrin or Tylenol
Use a humidifier
Have the patient use tissues for coughing or sneezing; dispose of them carefully
Consider using a mask for the first 24 hours of antibiotics treatment
Wash your hands frequently and don’t share drinking glasses, food utensils, or tooth brushes
Go back to the doctor if fever doesn’t come down, or if difficulty swallowing worsens

Strep throat tends to occur most often in children 5-15 years old, and in the fall and winter of the year. It is more common in places where groups of people are in close contact, such as schools, dormitories, and daycares. Practicing good flu season hygiene is the best way to avoid it.

John Drew Laurusonis

Doctors Medical Center