All About Strep Throat
Published: 09 March 2020
Published: 09 March 2020
Strep throat, otherwise known as group A strep, is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils, specifically the oropharynx. The bacteria that causes strep throat is called group A streptococcus (CDC 2018).
Strep throat can affect anyone, but is most common among school-aged children and teenagers between 5 and 15. Adults who are not exposed to children are unlikely to be infected, as are children younger than 3.
Strep A causes about one-third of sore throats in children, but only 1 in 10 sore throats in adults (CDC 2018).
Strep throat is generally transmitted via droplets or direct contact (VIC Health n.d.). Strep A bacteria will inhabit the nose and throat, and spread to others through coughing and sneezing. It is possible for someone to be infected without displaying symptoms or appearing unwell (CDC 2018).
You may catch strep throat by:
(CDC 2018; Better Health Channel 2017)
Rarely, strep throat can be caught from contaminated food items including:
(Better Health Channel 2017)
Untreated individuals can be contagious for two to three weeks. However, after taking antibiotics, you are generally no longer contagious after 24 hours (Healthdirect 2020).
The following factors may make you more likely to catch strep throat:
(Mayo Clinic 2018; Healthdirect 2020)
Many of these symptoms are nonspecific to strep throat and could indicate a viral infection instead. A strep throat test should be conducted to determine the cause of symptoms (Mayo Clinic 2018).
The following symptoms may indicate a virus instead of strep throat, though it is important to contact your general practitioner for a formal diagnosis:
A strep infection may also lead to scarlet fever, which is a pink-red body rash with a sandpaper-like texture. It is mostly seen in children (NHS 2018).
Impetigo refers to a skin rash caused by strep A bacteria, though it can also be caused by staphylococcus aureus (golden staph). The rash causes blisters around the nose, mouth and legs, and in severe cases can cause fever and swollen lymph nodes. The blisters are highly contagious (Better Health Channel 2017).
Rheumatic fever is a possible complication of untreated strep throat or scarlet fever. It is a serious inflammatory response to the strep A bacteria that may affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin (CDC 2018; Mayo Clinic 2018).
Rheumatic fever can cause inflamed and painful joints, a rash, fever, breathless and chest pain, and nervous system problems (such as involuntary twitching). It can also develop into permanent heart complications such as a heart murmur or enlarged heart (Better Health Channel 2011).
To determine whether someone has strep throat, a medical practitioner will need to perform a ‘rapid strep test’, as simply looking at the throat is inconclusive. The test involves a throat swab, which is then tested for strep A bacteria (CDC 2018).
If the test comes back negative but the practitioner believes strep throat is still a possibility, they may take a throat culture swab. This test takes more time, as it monitors the swab to see if any strep A bacteria grows (CDC 2018).
Treatment options for strep throat will generally involve a course of antibiotics to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of contagion (CDC 2018).
If you have strep throat, try to avoid spreading it to others.
Untreated strep A infections may be contagious for 10 to 21 days. If you have taken medication, this may reduce the infectious period (Better Health Channel 2017).
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