Strep throat

Strep throat or to give it its proper name ‘streptococcus throat infection’is caused by a bacteria called ‘streptococcus A’which affects both adults and children.

However, children under the age of seven are particularly susceptible to this type of throat infection.

Strep throat is a type of bacterial throat infection which requires medication to prevent it from leading to more serious conditions. This is usually the case as the body’s immune system is not always capable of fighting off this infection.

Streptococcus A is part of the streptococci group of bacteria which resides in our bodies without causing any problems. But streptococcus A causes infections or disease such as the common cold and throat infections.

This type of bacteria is transmitted very easily between people, usually by personal contact or through coughing or sneezing. So, if you are near to someone who has strep throat and they sneeze or cough on you then you are at high risk of developing this infection.

Strep throat accounts for around 10% of cases of sore throats.

Note: many people assume that all sore throats are caused by the streptococcus ‘A’ bacterium but in fact, many cases of sore throats are caused by a viral infection instead.

How can you tell the difference?

If you have a sore throat which is accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose, coughing and sneezing then you probably have a cold or viral infection rather than strep throat.

Symptoms of strep throat

These include:

  • Pain especially when swallowing
  • White patches (containing pus) on or near the tonsils
  • Bright red, inflamed throat
  • High temperature
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rash
  • General feeling of ‘under the weather’

A strep throat is certainly unpleasant and can leave you feeling very ill. This is usually a result of your body trying to fight off the infection.

If a child develops strep throat then they are likely to have a heavy cold as well. This causes excess mucus to drain down the back of the nose and into the throat.

Diagnosing a strep throat

It is important to obtain a correct diagnosis as the symptoms of strep throat are seen with many other infections. For example a severe cold or other type of upper respiratory infection causes these symptoms although it also includes a cough which is not a feature of strep throat.

It is very rare that a strep throat causes coughing.

Your GP will perform a throat swab to confirm or reject the presence of the streptococcus ‘A’ bacterium.

Treatment for strep throat

The preferred treatment is a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are an effective form of treatment for bacterial infections but are not advisable for a viral infection and in some cases can lead to a resistance to these.

Your GP will recommend that you drink plenty of fluids and take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Get plenty of rest as well.

If strep throat is left untreated then it can lead to complications such as scarlet fever which can be serious. So it is a good idea to see your GP to obtain a course of antibiotics rather than leaving this condition untreated.

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