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Understanding Strep Throat: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Jan 24, 2024

Acute Care

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Strep throat is a common bacterial infection primarily seen in children, but people of all ages can get the infection. You must consult your physician immediately for prompt diagnosis and treatment if you have strep throat symptoms. The condition, if left untreated, can lead to more severe health complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several million mild strep throat cases each year and 11,000 to 13,000 severe cases, with 1,100 to 1,600 deaths. So, it is important that you learn more about strep throat. This blog discusses the symptoms and the leading causes of strep throat while providing information on how the infection is diagnosed and its best treatment option.

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is an infection that affects your throat and tonsils. It is highly contagious and causes severe inflammation and soreness of the throat. It derives its name from group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that causes this infection. It is also known as Group A Streptococcal (GAS) infection. 

Strep throat bacteria thrive in places where people are in close contact for extended periods, so the infection is most common in school-going children between 5 to 15 years of age. Adults constantly near children are more prone to getting the infection than others. Although you can have strep throat any time of the year, you are more likely to get the infection in winter and early spring.

What Are the Symptoms of Strep Throat?

You experience strep throat symptoms nearly 2 to 5 days after coming into contact with the strep germ. Depending on the intensity of the infection, your symptoms can be either mild or severe. While the main symptom of strep throat is a sore throat, you may experience other symptoms too. 

The symptoms of strep throat include: 

  • Sore throat
  • Painful while swallowing
  • 101-degree fever or higher
  • Red and inflamed tonsils
  • Pus formation on the tonsils appears as white patches
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes at the front of the neck
  • Mouth’s roof spotted with tiny red spots
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea and vomiting

What are the Main Causes of Strep Throat?

The leading cause of strep throat is streptococcus pyogenes or group A Streptococcus, a kind of bacteria. It is contagious and spreads fast. You can receive the germ from an infected person through:

  • Bacterial Infection: Strep throat is primarily caused by the Streptococcus bacteria.
  • Airborne Transmission: It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Close Contact: Direct contact with an infected person or surfaces holding the bacteria can also lead to transmission. 

How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

As soon as you have strep throat symptoms, you must consult your doctor to prevent serious consequences due to a lapse in proper and timely diagnosis and treatment. Based on your symptoms, they will perform a physical examination and run a few tests, such as:

  • Rapid Antigen Test: This test can be done within 10 to 20 minutes, wherein the doctor collects a swab sample from your throat and performs a rapid antigen test to determine whether strep germs cause your symptoms. If the test result is negative and the doctor suspects strep infection, they may ask for a throat culture.
  • Molecular Test: It detects genetic material from group A strep bacteria in your swab sample if you have strep throat in less than 8 minutes. 
  • Throat Culture: The test involves the collection of a swab sample from your throat, which is cultured in a laboratory for traces of bacteria. It is a more reliable test, but you may receive the test results after a day or two.

What Are the Treatments for Strep Throat?

Strep throat is curable. The best treatment for strep throat is administering antibiotics, which are most effective against bacterial infections. 

Your doctor prescribes antibiotics to:

  • Facilitate faster recovery 
  • Offer relief from the symptoms
  • Stop the bacteria from spreading
  • Stop the infection from aggravating into a more serious health condition.

However, for complete recovery, you must ensure that you complete the prescribed dose of the antibiotic even after the symptoms subside.

Final Thoughts

Strep throat is a highly contagious infection more often seen among children than in adults. It is a type of sore throat with the main symptoms being fever, body ache, and swollen and infected tonsils that make swallowing painful. Caused by a bacterial germ, group A Streptococcus, it is a curable infection, and its best treatment is taking antibiotics prescribed by your physician. Receiving treatment for strep throat is necessary to prevent further health issues.

Receive Quality Treatments for Acute Diseases at Newnan Family Medicine. At Newnan Family Medicine, our team of experienced physicians is equipped with the latest diagnostic and treatment technology to provide you with the best treatment for your acute illnesses. Our acute care includes personalized treatments for various acute illnesses, including strep throat. Contact us today to learn more about our acute care services.

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