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The Facts about Strep Throat

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Strep Throat related image Photo: Getty Images

As the school year starts, so does the spread of infections in the classroom. Strep throat is one of those infections children between the ages of 5-15 can bring home. Anyone, at any age, can become sick with strep throat.

Strep throat is a bacteria which affects the throat and tonsils. The bacteria is known as a group A streptococci or GAS. Streptococci bacteria are passed through mucus membranes and saliva.

Strep throat is contagious. If you have been exposed to someone who has strep throat, you may develop symptoms in 24-72 hours.

Symptoms of strep throat include:

• Sore throat
• Difficulty swallowing
• Nausea
• Chills
• Fever
• Headache
• General ill feeling
• Loss of appetite
• Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck
• Fatigue
• Tonsils are swollen and often covered with pus
• Roof of the mouth may have fine red lesions called petechiae
• Red throat, sometimes with white patches
• Abnormal taste

A health care practitioner can determine if you have strep by a throat culture where they swab the back of your throat. There are two types of throat cultures. One can determine strep throat in 15 minutes and the second type of culture takes 24-48 hours. A doctor may order a second culture if your first culture is inconclusive.

Strep throat treatment includes a ten-day course of antibiotics (amoxicillin or penicillin). It is recommended to take the full course of antibiotics even if your symptoms pass. If strep throat is not treated you may run the risk developing other health complications like sinusitis, ear infections, scarlet fever, etc.

A person infected with strep throat should not return to school or work until they have taken medication for a full 24 hours.

If you have a runny nose, cough and hoarseness, you may not have strep throat. However, you should consult your doctor if you have these symptoms because they may indicate an upper respiratory infection.

To sooth your strep throat, the U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends the following:

• Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges. Young children should not be given such products because they can choke on them.

• Try over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen.

• Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey.

• A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.

• Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles.

• Gargle several times a day with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup water).

Finally, throw out your toothbrush after you have completed a full week of medication for strep throat. The nasty little virus can live in your toothbrush and re-infect you after you have completed a full round of medication.


Strep throat - PubMed Health. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 4, 2011, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001663

Strep Throat . KidsHealth - the Web's most visited site about children's health. Retrieved September 4, 2011, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/strep_throat.html

Strep throat: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 4, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000639.htm

Disease Listing, Group A Streptococcal, General Info | CDC Bacterial, Mycotic Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 4, 2011, from

Streptococcal Pharyngitis Fact Sheet. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Retrieved September 4, 2011, from http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/FactSheets/StreptococcalPharyngitis.htm

Reviewed September 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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