by Kimberly Allen, RN
Strep throat is one of those conditions that is more prevelant during the winter but can occur at any time. Not all sore throats ore strep throat, most are viral infections. Though you can contract strep throat at any age it is most common in children and teens between 5-15 years of age. Strep throat affects both boys and girls equally. There are over 600 million cases of strep throat diagnosed worldwide with at least 11 million people in the US being diagnosed with strep throat every year. Where 37% of children between the ages of 5-15 with a sore throat have strep throat it usually affects only about 15% of adults with a sore throat.
Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and is highly contagious. The most common method of transmission is through air borne droplets. Which means if you are living in or working in close proximity to someone that is infected with strep chances are you’re going to get it too. Day care centers and schools are the most common places where the strep bacteria spread.
Symptoms of strep throat usually manifest between 1-4 days after becoming infected. The symptoms of strep throat mimic those of other sore throat conditions, however, they tend to be more severe. You or your child will develop a fever above101F that may develop suddenly or develop slowly, chills may or may not accompany the fever. Most people especially children complain of a sore throat that may be severe enough to interfere with swallowing. If you look at your child’s throat you will usually see red and white patches in the throat and the tonsils are usually enlarged and red. You may notice that you or your child have swollen and/or tender lymph glands in the neck. Most people also experience a general feeling of malaise and fatigue with a poor appetite, headache and stomach ache. Young children may also experience nausea and vomiting.
Strep throat is diagnosed by the Dr taking a throat culture. The Dr or lab technician will take a cotton swab and wipe the back of your child’s throat and culture it in the lab which takes approximately 48 hours. In some cases your Dr may request a rapid antigen test on the swab sample which can determine if there is strep bacteria present in minutes. However, these tests can miss some strep infections so if it comes out negative frequently the Dr will also have a culture done to verify the results.
The treatment of choice for strep throat is antibiotic therapy. In most casess the Dr will prescribe oral amoxicillin, however, in young children that are having a very difficult time swallowing the Dr may give an in jection of penicillin. For people that are allergic to penicillin the Dr will prescribe a different antibiotic like keflex or erythromycin. The Dr will determine the length of time you or your child need to take antibiotics. The most common problem with antibiotic therapy is that once you feel better many people either forget to take them or just stop taking them. It’s important to always complete any course of antibiotics your Dr prescribes or the infection can return and increase the potential for serious complications.
The best way to prevent strep throat isto practice good hand washing and to teach children todo the same. Either use warm soap and water when available or an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Always cover your mouth using the crook of your elbow and teach children to do the same. Should you or your child have strep throat do not share drinking glasses or utensils with anyone and always wash them with hot soapy water.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.