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Finding It Hard to Swallow—Strep throat  
An introduction to its causes, symptoms, and treatments.


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Strep throat
An introduction to its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageJust close your eyes and listen closely. You'll more than likely hear the signs of yet another cold and flu season. The sounds of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling fill the air along with the wonderful array of germs that make these winter ailments the most undesirable gift since fruitcake! As miserable and frustrating as they are, most bouts with a cold or the flu last a few days or weeks and eventually run their course. This time of year, however, also brings with it another harbinger of winter, the painful soreness of strep throat.

Even a plain old, everyday sore throat is no fun but strep throat takes the experience to an entirely new level. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strep throat is caused by Group A streptococcus bacteria, a bacterium that is found in the throat and on the skin. A select group of people may carry the bacterium but have no symptoms or illness. The CDC adds that the streptococcus bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin. The Mayo Clinic states that strep throat is most common in children between the ages of five and fifteen but it can affect people of all ages. It describes the symptoms of strep throat as:

  • Throat pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Stomachache, sometimes vomiting, especially in younger children
  • Swollen, tender lymph glands (nodes) in the neck

Although it can occur at any time during the year, the Mayo Clinic notes that strep throat is most likely to occur in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Since the strep bacteria flourish wherever groups of people are in close contact, the infection tends to spread easily among family members, in schools, and in childcare environments. The highly contagious streptococcal bacteria are spread through airborne droplets, which occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The bacteria can also be transferred from a doorknob or surface to your nose or mouth.

ImageIf your physician suspects strep throat, tests such as a throat culture, rapid antigen test, or rapid DNA test may be conducted to confirm the presence of streptococcal bacteria. If strep throat is detected, a doctor will most likely prescribe an oral antibiotic such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, cephalosporin, clarithromycin, clindamycin, or penicillin. Once antibiotic treatment starts, the Mayo Clinic notes that the patient should begin feeling better in 24 to 48 hours. Children on antibiotics who feel better and no longer have a fever can often return to school or childcare when they are no longer contagious—usually 24 hours after beginning treatment, according to the CDC.

To help relieve some of the symptoms of strep throat until the antibiotic wipes out the bacteria causing the infection, the Mayo Clinic provides the following tips:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep helps the body fight infection.
  • If you have strep, stay home or keep an ill child home until there is no sign of fever and you or the child feels better.
  • Eat soothing foods including broths, soups, applesauce, and mashed potatoes. Cold foods such as sherbet or frozen fruit pops may also be soothing on the throat.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep the sore throat lubricated and moist to ease swallowing.
  • Use a humidifier to introduce moisture into the air and help keep the throat from becoming dry. Use a cool-mist humidifier and clean it daily to keep bacteria and mold from forming.
  • Gargle with warm salt water to help relieve throat pain. Older children and adults should gargle several times a day with teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of warm water, spitting out the liquid after gargling.
  • Avoid irritants such as cigarette smoke and fumes from paint and cleaning supplies.

Of course, prevention is always a good idea when it comes to dealing with infections and strep is no different. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following practices to help prevent strep infection:

  • Clean your hands regularly and teach your children how to clean their hands properly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and teach your children to do the same.
  • If someone in your family has strep throat, don't share drinking glasses or eating utensils. After use, wash those items in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.

Being sick isn't fun for anyone. Basic hygiene practices can help limit the likelihood of strep occurring in your family. If strep throat is present, prompt medical evaluation and antibiotic treatment can quickly fight the infection and put the patient back on the road to good health!

As with any medical condition, consult with your family physician or health care provider concerning any health-related issues.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—
The Mayo Clinic—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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