Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils. A bacteria called “group A beta haemolytic streptococcus” cause it. The infection spreads from someone who is sick with strep A bacteria or is a carrier of it. Like other infections, it spreads through close contact. When people who are sick cough or sneeze, they release droplets into the air that hold the bacteria, particularly in crowded and closed places, in winter. Strep throat is most common in children and teens, between ages 5 to 15.
What are the symptoms of Strep throat?
About 10% of children with sore throat and fever have strep throat. Common signs and symptoms are:
- Pain in the throat
- Difficult swallowing
- Bad mouth odor
- Fever above 38 °C (101 °F)
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach ache, nausea, vomiting
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White patches in the throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Sometimes streptococci produce toxins leading to a specific skin rash called “scarlet fever”. Untreated streptococcal infections can lead to rheumatic fever, which may result in arthritis and heart valve disease. Another complication of strep throat is kidney damage. Streptococci may also cause sinusitis, otitis media, pneumonia and dermatitis.
How to diagnose Strep throat?
Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms. The only sure way to tell strep from viruses that cause a sore throat is with a test. There are two kinds:
- Rapid strep test: It can identify a case in just a few minutes. The doctor will gently hold down your child’s tongue with a depressor. Then, she will use a cotton swab to take a little bit of sample from the back of the throat. You’ll get the results in 20 minutes or less. If the test is positive, which means strep is there, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat it. If the test is negative, which means the strep bacteria could not be found, the doctor might send the sample to a lab for a follow-up that takes longer.
- Throat culture: Your doctor will rub the sample from the throat swab onto a special dish. If your child has strep throat, streptococci bacteria will grow in it. It usually takes about 2 days to get results from a throat culture. It can confirm whether your child has strep throat or not.
Is it contagious? How to keep it from spreading?
Strep throat is contagious during illness. Some children are carriers for streptococci. 5-15% of cildren of school age are carriers and have no sign of disease in the presence of a positive throat culture for streptococci. Consult your doctor for the management of carrier state.
There is no definitive way to prevent strep throat. The safest way is not to have close contact with patients and to keep general hygiene rules.
- Have your child stay home from school or daycare until the fever is gone and he has been on an antibiotic for at least 24 hours.
- Don’t share cups, dishes, forks, or other personal items with someone who’s sick.
- Ask children to cover their mouths with a tissue or sleeve whenever they cough or sneeze.
- Have everyone in the house wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer many times daily.
If the tests are positive, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that cause the infection. Most treatments last for about 10 days. Stopping the medicine too early can leave some bacteria alive.
If the strep test is negative, a virus likely caused the sore throat. Your child doesn’t need antibiotics because these medications don’t work on viruses.
Fever commonly subsides in 48-72 hours after antibiotic treatment and other symptoms recover within 5 days. Your child may go to the school after 48 hours of antibiotic therapy, if there is no fever.
- Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Water, clear soups, cold drinks, clear fruit juices . Semi-solid food should be consumed.
- Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air.
- Put warm compresses on the neck if painful and enlarged lymph nodes are present.
- Use recommended medications regularly.
When to see a doctor?
If your child has symptoms of strep throat, particularly in the presence of another one with strep throat at home or at school, see your doctor.
You should also see your doctor in the presence of skin rash, earache, foul nasal discharge, cough, chest pain, respiratory distress, fatigue, painful swelling of the joints, nausea and vomiting.