Strep Throat Advice from Dr. Abby Housman
Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and the tonsils. The throat gets irritated and inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat. Strep throat is caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. There are many different types of strep bacteria. Some cause more serious illness than others.
Dr. Abby Housman, Five Oaks Medical Group Family Medicine Physician, said, "Although some people are quick to think that any painful sore throat is strep, sore throats are caused by a viral infection and not strep bacteria. A sore throat caused by a virus can be just as painful as strep throat. But if you have cold symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose, you probably do not have strep throat."
The most common symptoms of strep throat are a sudden, severe sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever over 101 F, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, white or yellow spots on the back of a bright red throat, headache and belly pain.
Strep throat can be passed from person to person. When a person who has strep throat breathes, coughs, or sneezes, tiny droplets with the strep bacteria go into the air. These droplets can be breathed in by other people. If you come into contact with strep, it will take 2 to 5 days before you start to have symptoms.
Your doctor will do a physical exam, ask you about your symptoms and past health, and do a rapid strep test to diagnose strep throat. Sometimes another test, called a throat culture, is also needed.
Doctors treat strep throat with antibiotics. Antibiotics shorten the time you are able to spread the disease to others and lower the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. Antibiotics also may help you feel better faster.
You are contagious while you still have symptoms. Most people stop being contagious 24 hours after they start antibiotics. If you don't take antibiotics, you may be contagious for 2 to 3 weeks, even if your symptoms go away.
To avoid getting strep throat, it is a good idea to avoid contact with anyone who has a strep infection. If you are around someone who has strep, wash your hands often. Don't drink from the same glass or use the same eating utensils. Bacteria can live for a short time on doorknobs, water faucets, and other objects. It is a good idea to wash your hands regularly.