Your throat is scratchy and raw. It hurts when you swallow. Is this sore throat just a common cold symptom or something more serious? It could be strep throat, an infection of the throat and tonsils usually caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, also known as “group A strep.”
Here are some symptoms common with strep throat, which may help you
tell the difference:
- Severe pain when swallowing
- White patches or streaks on tonsils
- Small red spots in the back portion of the roof of the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes
Sore throats caused by viruses will typically resolve themselves in a few days, but strep throat is the result of a bacterial infection, which, in most cases, should be treated with antibiotics. So if you suspect strep throat, see a health care professional who can do a quick and easy “strep test.”
A simple swab to the back of the throat can be used to confirm if group A strep bacteria are causing your sore throat. We do strep tests frequently at Doctors Express of Timonium.
Antibiotics can speed recovery (you should feel better in a day or two), reduce symptoms and slow the bacteria’s spread to friends and family. They can also help reduce the risk of complications, including sinus infections and, in rare cases, rheumatic fever.
Since group A strep bacteria live in the nose and throat, the most common way to contract strep throat is by breathing in the droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze or by coming in contact with those droplets through food or utensil sharing.
There is no vaccine to prevent strep throat. The best prevention is diligent hand-washing, keeping your spoon to yourself, and staying out of the line of fire when others around you are coughing and sneezing. Strep throat is most common among children ages 5 to 15 but can also occur in younger children and adults. We see the most cases in late fall, winter and early spring. Once infected, carriers can spread the germ for two to three weeks, even without symptoms. Sufferers who get on an antibiotic, however, stop being contagious after just 24 hours.
So if you or a loved one has a severe sore throat and any of the other symptoms listed above, find out if you need a strep test, so you can feel better faster and protect the people around you.