What is Strep Throat?
Streptococcal pharyngitis, commonly known as strep throat, is a medical condition referring to having inflamed tonsils and a sore throat, which is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat is a common childhood ailment affecting children between 5 and 15 years of age. However, adults of all ages are also at risk of getting a strep infection.
Strep Throat: Causes and Symptoms
Infection-causing streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious and can spread in both children and adults. People are at risk of becoming infected if they come in proximity to a person with strep as the bacteria can spread when the affected person coughs, sneezes or comes in direct contact with another person, such as a handshake.
The common symptoms of strep throat in both adults and children include:
- Sore throat, often without a cough.
- Inflamed or red tonsils. There may also be white spots on them.
- Loss of appetite.
- Upset stomach or abdominal pain.
- Breathing difficulties (in which case you must seek doctor’s help immediately).
Strep Throat: Diagnosis and Treatment
Tests that help diagnose strep throat are:
Also known as throat swab culture, it a laboratory test that involves taking a sample from the back of the throat or tonsils using a cotton-tipped applicator. The sample is then examined for the presence of the bacteria to determine the nature or cause of infection.
Rapid Strep Test (RST)
RST is also referred to as rapid antigen detection testing, taking only minutes to obtain the results. Although a negative RST is typically suggestive of a virus being the cause of the throat infection, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of strep throat infection. Hence, in many cases, a doctor may ask the patient to undergo a culture test in order to confirm diagnosis.
Antibiotics — The Best Anti-Bacterial Treatment
If you or your child are diagnosed with strep throat, your doctor or pediatrician will administer a course of antibiotics, either to be taken orally or by injection. It is important that the patient completes the prescribed course as there is a possibility that the infection may return or worsen. There is also a possibility for the infection to spread to other body parts, resulting in abscesses of the tonsils, kidney problems or worse, rheumatic fever.
Preventing Strep Throat
Being an extremely contagious disease, people can get strep throat more than once. Although there is no specialized vaccine to lower the risk of the infection, practicing good personal hygiene can be an effective way to steer clear of bacteria-causing strep.
Even if you are in bed with a strep infection, always maintain hygienic conditions.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
- Always dispose of used tissues.
- Wash your hands properly for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub if you can’t wash your hands.
Those affected by strep infections must also avoid going into any public places, such as their office or school, until the fever has subsided and they have taken their prescribed course of antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
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