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Common Symptoms of Strep Throat

While we never support the overuse of antibiotics – some bacterial infections require action sooner rather than later – and strep throat is one of them. Called streptococcal pharyngitis in the medical world, strep throat is caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes. It begins as a severe throat infection but can morph into scarlet fever and – if left untreated – can attach the organs and become fatal.

The quicker we identify it as strep throat, and treat it with antibiotics, the lesser chance there is the infection will worsen. It’s important to note that strep throat is not the same thing as tonsillitis or other throat infections. This is why it’s so important to schedule an appointment with your physician, so s/he can run a culture to identify whether or not the infection is caused by strep. Assuming it’s strep and prescribing antibiotics increases your body’s resistance to antibiotics in the future.

Symptoms of Strep Throat

  • Sore throat – swallowing may be very difficult
  • Body aches and chills
  • White spots or patches on the throat and tonsils - although these same patches can indicate a run-of-the-mill throat infection and are especially common in toddlers and very young children.
  • Bad breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes - small, pea-shaped nodules at the base of the neck, underneath the armpits and in the groin, that become enlarged as part of the body’s immune system response.
  • Headache
  • Fever – in children and adults, the fever is often quite high.
  • General fatigue or malaise

As you may have noticed, the symptoms of strep throat are quite similar to those of a throat infection or seasonal cold/flu. However, a simple throat swab and culture via your healthcare provider will identify whether or not streptococcus is the cause. If it is, s/he’ll prescribe a round of antibiotics.

The most commonly used antibiotics for strep throat are amoxicillin, penicillin or cephalexin or azithromycin – with the latter two being prescribed if there’s a history of penicillin allergy. As with any illness, the patient should drink plenty of fluids, sleep as much as possible and eat nourishing foods that support the body’s immune system. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and discomfort while also lowering a fever.

Prevent the Spread of Strep Throat in Your Household

Strep throat is highly contagious. It is spread through respiratory fluids (coughing, sneezing) or saliva (kissing, sharing drinks or food). If one of your children has it, make sure everyone washes their hands regularly, covers their mouths when they cough/sneeze and keeps food and beverages to themselves for the time being.

If siblings typically share a bed, it may be worth it to move the uninfected member until the other child has been on antibiotics for 24-hours or more in order to minimize the risk of contagion.

Beefing up your immune system is the best way to prevent yourself from succumbing to both viral and bacterial infections like strep throat. Eat well, exercise often, get lots of sleep and minimize stress.

Have a throat infection or post-infection sinus issues you just can’t shake? Schedule a consultation with the compassionate team of ENTs at Palouse Specialty Physicians.

Published on December 20, 2017