What is Strep Throat?
The term ‘strep throat’ refers to a contagious bacterial throat infection caused by the Group A streptococcus bacterium. The throat becomes inflamed and irritated, resulting in a sore throat, usually of rather sudden onset.
Symptoms of strep throat may range from mild to severe. There are several strains of strep that may lead to serious complications if left untreated. Some of these strains produce toxins that can damage the kidneys, heart valves and cause tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear infection, pneumonia, rheumatic fever and scarlet fever Streptococcal infection also has the potential to spread within the body, causing pockets of pus (abscesses) in the tonsils and in the soft tissue around the throat.
Strep throat infections most commonly occur in late fall, winter, and early spring during the cold and flu season. They are most common in school aged children and teens that have a less well developed immune system and can spread quickly within communities.
When children have strep throat they complain of a sore throat, which is often accompanied by upset stomach or a rash under the arms or in the skin creases. Adults can also be affected with a strep throat infection and usually suffer from a sore throat, fever and swollen glands. The acute illness usually lasts at least between two and five days.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
The symptoms and signs of strep throat include:
Diagnosing Strep Throat
The diagnosis of strep throat is based on the symptoms, physical examination and laboratory tests. Your doctor will do a thorough examination of your throat and tonsils by checking for redness, swelling, white streaks or pus.
Tests that will determine the presence of streptococcal bacteria include:
- Throat culture
A sterile swab is rubbed over the back of the throat and tonsils to obtain a sample of the secretions. The sample is cultured (grown) in a laboratory with a waiting period of 24-48 hours before streptococcal bacteria may be detected.
- Rapid antigen test
A swab is used to take a sample of the foreign substances (antigens) from the back of the throat. This test will be able to detect strep bacteria in 15 minutes. If the result is positive for streptococcal bacteria, treatment may begin immediately. Not all rapid antigen tests are accurate and many doctors may use throat cultures if the results of the rapid tests were negative.
What Causes Strep Throat?
Strep throat is caused is caused by group A streptococcal bacteria, usually Streptococcus pyogenes. Streptococci are the most common causes of bacterial throat infections and in some instances can be highly contagious. This type of bacteria is spread from person to person through airborne droplets when an infected person either coughs sneezes.
Hand to hand contact such as sharing personal items and touching objects such as doorknobs, telephone receivers or pens can also transmit infection.(/ailment/bacterial-infections-and-fungal-infections-info.html) The infection is most contagious during the initial 24 to 48 hour period.
Help for Strep Throat
Strep throat that is left untreated can lead to serious complications. Health practitioners usually prescribe oral antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, azithromycin or clarithromycin for immediate relief. It is important that you complete the entire course of antibiotics to prevent recurring infections. Also remember to replenish ‘good’ bacteria that antibiotics may have destroyed in your body by eating yogurt, a great source of probiotics. Strep throat is usually cleared within three to seven days of treatment. Over-the-counter medication such as Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol can also help to relieve throat pain and reduce fever but be aware that these medications may lead to dependency and addiction(/ailment/natural-drug-addiction-treatment.html) if used too frequently.
Natural and holistic treatments can also provide rapid relief for throat pain and inflammation, without the adverse effects associated with prescription, antibiotic or OTC pharmaceutical drugs. Using homeopathic and herbal remedies is a safer, gentler way of improving overall health and can be equally effective.
Homeopathic ingredients such as Gelsemium can relieve a sore throat and provide a soothing effect, while Salvia officinalis is a powerful herb with antibiotic and antiseptic properties that can benefit all conditions of the mouth and throat region.
Chamomile, with its analgesic properties, can reduce fever and provide relief for throat pain. Garlic is a firm favorite of herb enthusiasts and its antibiotic properties are excellent for strep throat. Remember to obtain all herbal and homeopathic remedies from a reputable source to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness.
More Information on Sore Throat
Tips to Relieve a Sore Throat
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water and herbal teas to keep the throat lubricated and to prevent dehydration
- Get plenty of rest and stay in bed if you feel very ill
- Eat foods that will soothe a painful throat such as soups, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soft fruit or yogurt
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and keep your throat from becoming dry and irritated
- Avoid irritants such as smoke and chemical fumes from paint or cleaning products
- If you are a smoker, try to stop smoking naturally or at least cut down on your cigarette intake
- Gargle with salt water several times a day to help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation
Preventing a Sore Throat
There are no guarantees that you will never suffer from strep throat. However, there are a few ways to prevent spreading bacteria and infecting to those around you.
Follow these useful tips:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to prevent bacteria spreading
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, (especially underneath the fingernails) – and before eating, cooking, after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
- Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meat – which are all immune system boosters
- Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to cleanse and detox the body’s system
- Disinfect wounds and scrapes by washing, and covering the wound with a natural antiseptic ointment
- Wash household utensils and wipe surfaces with hot, soapy water and people-friendly cleaning detergents
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, toothbrushes, food or drinks
- Increase your intake of vitamins such as Vitamin A and C, and zinc