What Is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection. The offending bacteria is called Streptococcus, which is a mouthful, so many people just refer to it as “Strep” or “Strep Throat,”  which is the shortened version of the bacteria’s scientific designation.

Strep causes a sore throat as it infects the throat and tonsils, which may swell and have white spots on them. General throat discomfort and pain when swallowing is quite common.

Is Strep Throat Common?

As the cause of sore throats, strep is not incredibly common. That means that bacteria do not cause the most sore throats. However, strep throat is a common infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the United States, there are several million cases of mild group A strep infections, and 11,000 to 13,000 cases of severe group A strep infections with 1,100 to 1,600 deaths. 

The bacterium is resilient and can live on the skin and in the throat for long periods. It is also highly contagious, passing from infected to uninfected individuals through respiratory droplets— when someone coughs or sneezes. It also passes through direct contact since the bacteria live on the skin.

How Many People Get Strep Throat Each Year?

Strep throat occurs most often in winter and early spring months. During these times, millions of people get infected every year. As many as 13,000 cases annually are considered serious.

Is It Fatal?

Of those 13,000 serious cases, less than 2,000 prove fatal. So while strep throat can result in the patient’s death, such an occurrence is uncommon. 

Usually, the death results from the Streptococcus bacteria entering the bloodstream and traveling to other organs. This results in a rare condition called streptococcal toxic shock syndrome and can cause those organs to shut down.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms?

The most common symptom of strep is, of course, a sore throat. A sore throat causes pain upon swallowing and may give you a hoarse or scratchy speaking voice. Other common symptoms include:

  • Red spots on the roof of your mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes on the neck
  • Swollen tonsils that may also be red
  • White spots in the throat and on the tonsils
Image source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/when-are-swollen-glands-a-sign-of-cancer-in-the-lymph-nodes/

Are there any Strange or Outlier Symptoms from Strep Throat?

No outright bizarre symptoms are associated with strep throat. However, some symptoms occur less regularly than a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. They can include:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting

How Long Do Symptoms Persist?

Once a patient begins a prescribed course of antibiotics, symptoms should abate in one to three days. If symptoms last longer than seven days while taking antibiotics, the patient will need to see a doctor again.

Left untreated, strep throat symptoms can last as long as ten days. In that case, the bacterial infection has the potential to develop into something much more serious, like rheumatic fever. This illness can affect any of the body’s joints in addition to the heart, skin, and brain. It is not a condition to take lightly.

Do Symptoms Vary per Age Group?

The above list of common symptoms appears in nearly all cases of strep throat across all age groups. The less common symptoms generally affect younger patients, with children often experiencing nausea and vomiting. 

How Do You Test for Strep?

Two tests exist for strep throat, and both involve a throat swab. The rapid test requires a throat swab, after which the swab gets tested for bacteria. The throat culture test also requires a throat swab, after which the sample goes into a petri dish or similar medium, which lab techs observe to see if the strep bacteria grow there.

The drawback to a rapid test is that it sometimes misses strep infections, while the main con of a throat culture is that it takes longer to get a result. However, throat cultures are preferred in diagnosing children and youth because an untreated strep infection in them is more likely to develop into rheumatic fever.

Strep Treatment

What Can You Do at Home?

Attempting to treat strep at home is ill-advised since a bacterial infection needs antibiotics. However, managing and soothing your symptoms is desirable. There are general self-care steps you can take that will help your body fend off strep (or any) infection.

General Well-being

Quality sleep is crucial at all times, especially when dealing with illness. A well-rested and hydrated body is a healthier one. Proper hydration, like sleep, plays an important role in keeping the body functioning. Drinking plenty of fluids (especially hot tea, with honey and lemon) will help keep a sore throat moist, making swallowing easier and less painful.

Managing Symptoms at Home

Pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can help with the pain associated with strep throat and lower any accompanying fever. 

Avoid overly spicy and difficult foods. Instead, eat soft things, like eggs, yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, and the like. Also, avoid overly acidic things like citrus fruits or juices.

Finally, a humidifier can keep moist air circulating in your space, which can help ease the pain of a sore throat at night while you sleep. 

What Can a Doctor (We) Do for You?

We here at Citra Urgent Care can prescribe the proper antibiotic to help your body fight off a strep infection. Again, as a bacterial infection, strep isn’t something you can effectively fight with something like chicken soup. 

The health and well-being of everyone in the DFW area are important to us, so let us assist you as you fight a strep infection.

Why Treatment Is Important

In the immediate future, treatment is crucial because no one wants to suffer from a sore throat and fever any longer than they have to. However, it’s much more important to treat strep throat not because it’s painful, but because it can, as mentioned above, develop into complications including rheumatic fever or even streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

As the latter can be fatal, and the former can cause heart issues that can ultimately prove deadly, treating strep throat is critical to a full and speedy recovery. 

Final Thoughts

Your health is a large part of your quality of life, and any problems confronting your health should be dealt with immediately. If you or a loved one are experiencing strep throat symptoms, visit any of the seven Citra Urgent Care Centers in the DFW area.