Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by the group A Streptococcus bacteria. This condition is highly contagious and may be spread easily from person to person, especially among family members, in schools and in child care settings. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old are commonly affected, however, strep throat can affect people of all ages. Strep throat is commonly treated with antibiotics, but left untreated it may lead to serious complications such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
The most common symptoms of strep throat are a painful sore throat and fever, however additional symptoms may include:
- Red and swollen tonsils
- Red spots on the mouth palate
- White patches in the back of the throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
Young children may also experience stomach pain and vomiting when they have strep throat.
Diagnosis of Strep Throat
Strep throat is diagnosed after a physical examination and a review of symptoms. A throat culture is often performed to get a sample of the throat secretions. The sample is then sent to a lab to confirm whether the infection is viral or bacterial. The results of these test often take up to 24 hours, therefore the doctor may perform a rapid antigen test on the swab sample. This test can detect strep bacteria in minutes by detecting antigens in the throat. Since the results of the rapid strep antigen test are not always completely reliable, doctors may still use a traditional throat culture to confirm a strep diagnosis if the results of the rapid antigen test are negative.
Treatment of Strep Throat
Strep throat is commonly treated with antibiotics to clear the body of infection. Treatment for symptoms may include ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and ease the pain of the sore throat. Patients are also advised to get plenty of rest and to drink fluids to stay hydrated. Gargling with warm salt water may also help to relieve throat pain. Most individuals start to feel better about 2 days after starting the antibiotics.