Strep Throat Contagious: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & At-Home Care
Strep Throat Contagious: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & At-Home Care- Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the throat. This common condition is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat can affect children and adults of all ages. However, it’s especially common in children between the ages of 5 and 16 of age. Sneezing and coughing can spread the infection from one person to another, and is most common in the United States in the winter and spring, according to the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Causes of Strep Throat
You can catch strep throat when exposed to infected droplets of spit — i.e. from the coughs and sneezes of those infected. Strep throat itself is not particularly dangerous, but the infection can worsen, especially if it goes untreated. If strep throat does not improve within two days of beginning treatment, it could indicate the presence of another infection, the spread of the strep bacteria to other areas outside the throat or an inflammatory reaction.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Symptoms of strep throat typically appear several days after exposure to the bacteria. The most common symptom is a sore throat. Individuals may also have trouble swallowing, and the tonsils and lymph nodes may feel swollen. Some individuals may experience fever, stomach ache or vomiting, fatigue or headache.
When to see your doctor having Strep Throat?
Not all sore throats are a result of a strep infection. Other illnesses can cause a sore throat, too. This includes:
• The common cold.
• A sinus infection.
• Postnasal drip.
• Acid reflux.
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Sore throats caused by other medical conditions usually improve on their own with or without treatment in a few days. Call your doctor if you experience:
• A sore throat that lasts longer than two days.
• A sore throat with white patches.
• Dark, red splotches or spots on the tonsils or the top of the mouth.
• A sore throat with a fine, sandpaper-like pink rash on the skin.
• Difficulty breathing.
• Difficulty swallowing.
Also check: Mouth Ulcer Home Remedies
Strep Throat Diagnosis & tests
During the physical exam and throat swab, a doctor examines the throat and mouth for signs of infection including redness and swelling. Also, the doctor will check for a fever and feel the lymph nodes, which will be enlarged in the presence of infection.
Many types of bacteria and, more frequently, viruses can cause a sore throat, so to determine the culprit, doctors will perform a throat swab, rubbing a swab over the back of the throat and tonsils. The sample can then be run through what’s called the rapid antigen test, which takes just minutes and can reveal whether molecules called antigens related to the GAS bacteria; doctors can also culture the bacteria in the lab to see if the bacteria pop up — a test that can take up to two days, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In a study published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers noted that the bacteria might be the culprit of up to 10 percent of sore throat cases in adolescents and early 20-somethings.
Treatment & medication of Strep Throat
It is possible for strep throat to clear up without treatment; however, the risk of complications could increase in some individuals. Moreover, the infection is contagious until treated.
Doctors typically prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin to treat strep throat. For individuals with a penicillin allergy, newer generations of antibiotics may be used. These include cephalexin, erythromycin and azithromycin. All of these antibiotics kill strep bacteria, alleviate symptoms and decrease the amount of time an individual is sick.
Within 24 hours of beginning treatment, an individual is usually no longer contagious and he or she will begin to feel better, according to the Mayo Clinic. Still, all medication should be taken for the duration prescribed to prevent complications.
At-home care medication of Strep Throat
In addition to antibiotics, there are at-home treatments to improve the symptoms of strep throat. These remedies include:
• Drinking warm liquids, such as lemon water and tea.
• Drinking cold liquids to help numb the throat.
• Turning on a cool-mist humidifier.
• Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
• Sucking on throat lozenges.
• Adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water and gargling the mixture.
• Cayenne is yet another very effective natural remedy for strep throat problem.
• Apple cider vinegar is one of the best home remedies for strep throat treatment. It possesses anti-bacterial and healing properties that help eliminate the bacteria and boost the immune system to fight the infection naturally.
• Garlic is considered as one of the best treatment for strep throat as it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Other types of strep infections
GAS can also cause an infection called scarlet fever. The infection is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 16 and generally begins with a fever and sore throat, according to the CDC. Scarlet fever is typically a mild illness that may resolve on its own but treatment with antibiotics can help symptoms disappear sooner.
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is another type of strep bacteria which can cause blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns, according to the NIH. Some women carry this type of bacteria in their intestines and vagina, but it is not passed through sexual contact. However, mothers can pass the bacteria to a newborn during birth, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
According to the CDC, a pregnant woman who tests positive for GBS bacteria and received antibiotics during pregnancy has a 1 in 4,000 change that her baby will develop GBS disease, versus a 1 in 200 chance if she didn’t receive antibiotics.
In adults, Group B strep can cause urinary tract infections, blood infections, skin infections, pneumonia and, rarely, meningitis, according to the CDC.
Additional resources about strep infections: