Bacterial throat infections

Throat infections can usually be categorised into the following:

  • Bacterial throat infections
  • Viral throat infections

Bacteria and viruses are the main causes of a throat infection although they can be caused by other factors such as an allergy, oral thrush, a symptom of another condition or overuse of the voice.

This section looks at bacterial throat infections.

This type of throat infection develops due to the transmission of infected saliva between people as a result of coughing or sneezing.

Causes of bacterial throat infections

As stated above: these are caused when a person comes into contact with someone who has a bacterial throat infection or via saliva. So, if you are in close proximity to someone who has this infection and they cough or sneeze near you then you are more than likely to catch this infection.

You can also pick this infection up if you touch a surface which contains infected droplets, e.g. saliva. This infection is also spread through kissing.

So this type of infection is highly contagious.

Symptoms of bacterial throat infections

This starts with a sore throat followed by headaches, tiredness, aches and pains. Having the snuffles is common as are other symptoms of a cold.

You will develop a temperature and feel tired and listless during this stage.

Treatment of bacterial throat infections

If this is a mild case then it can be treated by you at home. This means taking various cold remedies such as throat sweets, and over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol. Painkillers are an effective way of easing any pain and discomfort.

Try gargling with salt water several times a day. Another option is a steam bath in which you inhale the vapours of a nasal decongestant. This can relieve the feeling of stuffy, ‘blocked tubes’.

Try and give your voice a rest during this time to prevent the risk of straining your vocal cords.

These symptoms usually ease after several days but if they persist after a week or worsen then see your GP.

When should you do this?

If you notice white patches or pus at the back of your throat, find it difficult to swallow or breathe then seek medical advice as soon as possible. Also see your GP if you notice blood in your phlegm or saliva, have a rash over your body, earache, a hoarse voice or difficulty opening your mouth.

You will require a course of antibiotics to deal with this.

Antibiotics are not prescribed if you have a viral throat infection as they are ineffective against viruses. They do work with bacterial throat infections but are only prescribed for a set period of time to prevent the bacteria from developing a resistance to them.

Most bacterial throat infections are relatively mild but there is one called strep throat which can be dangerous. This is caused by the streptococcus ‘A’ bacteria and needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Can we prevent bacterial throat infections?

Not really. They are part of everyday life and can develop whenever they wish. However there are ways of reducing the risk of catching an infection which include boosting the immune system via a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Take regular exercise and get plenty of sleep.

Pay attention to hygiene: avoid sharing your toothbrush with anyone else and make sure that you thoroughly clean any plates, cups and other utensils to prevent the risk of an infection.

These are all discussed further in our preventing a sore throat section.

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