The cause of strep throat is group A streptococcus bacteria, the streptococcus pyogenes. The symptoms of strep throat are high temperature, sore throat and difficulty in swallowing. In children, symptoms of vomiting, stomach pain and headache may also occur. The throat may become red or have white dots. Strep throat is extremely contagious and can result in serious complications. This article lists some tips to lower the chances of getting strep throat and prevent its spread, and also some ways to tackle the infection if you catch it.
How Is Strep Throat Spread?
The common mode of strep throat spreading is through direct contact with an infected person in the form of infected saliva or airborne droplets exchange. This easily happens when a person infected with strep throat sneezes or coughs. Infection can also be easily picked up by touching a doorknob or other such surfaces and then transferred to the eyes, nose and mouth. The likelihood of getting a strep throat infection from a pet is minimal. The GAS bacteria can very easily spread in close living quarters such as home, day care centers, classrooms, college dorms, etc. The risk of getting strep throat infection in these environments is almost 40%.
Ways to Prevent Contacting or Spreading the Infection
Now that we have discussed “how is strep throat spread?” let us discuss some ways to prevent it from spreading.
- The most important step to prevent catching strep throat is to avoid getting in contact with an infected person. When you are around people suffering from cold or flu, it is imperative to wash your hands frequently.
- Make it a habit to not share toothbrushes or drinking or eating utensils.
- Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and do regular exercise to increase the immunity of your body.
- Manage stress effectively, so that you can avoid getting an infection of strep throat.
- Use a humidifier in your house to combat the dryness of the winter months. You can use it all through the year if you reside in dry climate. Humidity of moisture in the air helps your mucus membranes to remain moist thereby increasing their resistance to bacteria. Take care to clean humidifiers regularly as dust and mold particles may collect in a humidifier and can make you prone to contract a strep throat infection.
- Quit smoking if you are a smoker. Also avoid second hand smoke. Smoke is an irritant, irritating the mucus membrane of the throat; thereby making you prone to get a strep throat infection.
How Will You Know If You’re Infected
The various symptoms and signs of a strep throat are as follows:
- Pain in throat that appears quickly
- Pain during swallowing
- Tonsils swell and become red, sometimes white patches of pus appear on the tonsils
- Red, tiny spots may appear on the soft or hard palate (area situated at the very back of mouth’s roof)
- Lymph nodes of the neck become swollen and tender
- High temperature
- A rash may appear
- Nausea and vomiting may happen to young children
- Pain in body
It may happen that your child or you may develop many of the symptoms and signs of a strep throat but not actually have the infection. In such a case a different illness such as a viral infection may be the cause of these symptoms. Therefore, go to see your doctor and he will do specific test to diagnose a strep throat.
It is also a possibility to get exposed to an infected person but present with no symptoms of the infection.
How to Ease Your Symptoms
Even after knowing how is strep throat spread and ways to prevent it, if you get the illness, you should also know some ways to relieve the symptoms.
In case you suffer from a strep throat, you will likely be prescribed an oral antibiotic by your doctor. If antibiotics are taken within 48 hours of the appearance of symptoms, they decrease both the severity and duration of the illness. Antibiotics also reduce the risk of developing complications and the likelihood of the infection spreading to others. With treatment, you will start feeling better with 24 or 48 hours. It is important to finish the entire course of antibiotics as stopping in between increases the likelihood of recurrence of infection and serious complications.
2. OTC medications
Over-the-counter medicines to relieve pain such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (motrin, advil) can be taken to relieve symptoms of pain in throat and fever. It is important to give aspirin to teenagers and children with caution. They should never ingest aspirin if they are recovering from flu-like symptoms or chickenpox as aspirin may cause Reye’s syndrome (rare but life-threatening illness) in these children or teenagers.
3. Home Remedies
Drink plenty of fluids and increase humidity (moisture in the air) in your home to help keep your throat moist. Herbal teas formulated for colds may help relieve symptoms. Get plenty of rest. Stay home the first day of antibiotic treatment. You are still contagious and might pass the infection to others. Rest in bed if you feel very sick, and it is not required if you feel fine.
When to See a Doctor
Though strep throat is not usually dangerous, it may result in serious complications. Infection may spread to tonsils, skin, sinuses or blood. What’s more, strep throat infection will lead to various types of inflammatory illness, including scarlet fever, an infection caused by a streptococcal bacteria; Rheumatic fever, a dangerous inflammatory illness that may affect heart, skin, joints and the nervous system; and kidneys inflammatory reaction. Therefore, it's important that you contact your doctor immediately should anything severe occur to avoid serious complications.
Call your physician immediately if any of the following symptoms or signs develops to you or your child:
- Swollen and tender lymph glands
- A sore throat lasting longer than 2 days
- A fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C) in children or fever lasting for more than 48 hours
- Rash accompanying sore throat
- Problems in swallowing or breathing
- In cases of diagnosed strep throat, no improvement even after ingesting antibiotics for 2 days