Strep throat is caused by group streptococcus bacteria in the throat which causes inflammation and pain. This disease is particularly common in those between 5 to 15 years old, but it can impact people of all ages. Knowing how to identify strep throat can help you get treatment for this disease early. If left untreated, the bacteria that cause strep throat can also cause kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever which will in turn cause inflamed joints, damage to the heart valves or rash.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
A sore throat caused by allergies will not fade unless the irritants causing your symptoms are eliminated. In contrast, symptoms of strep throat usually appear 2-5 days after coming into contact with someone else that has an infection and fade within 3-7 days regardless of whether or not the disease is treated with antibiotics. Common symptoms of strep throat include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- A sore throat that develops rapidly
- Raw, red appearance in the throat
- Fever which can be over 102° Fahrenheit
- Tender lymph nodes on the neck
- White pus on the tonsils
- Rash or abdominal pain
Dr. Bradley Friedman tells the symptoms of strep throat through one of the families he’s treated:
Complications of Strep Throat
It is rare that people develop complications from strep throat but it is possible if the infection is not treated. Without antibiotics, the bacteria could spread to other parts of the body, leading to abscesses by the tonsils, sinus or ear infections or damage to the immune system that could lead to rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.
Risk Factors of Strep Throat
There are a few things that increase the risk of strep throat. Those that are young, between 5 to 15 years old, are at a higher risk of developing this disease. You can get strep throat at any time but it is most common in late fall or early spring when people are in close contact and it is easy for the bacteria to spread. Those in child care or schools are also more likely to get strep throat because it is easy for the bacteria to spread from one person to another.
Home Remedies for Strep Throat
If you do not treat strep throat with antibiotics you will be contagious for 2-3 weeks even if your symptoms fade away. You are significantly less contagious within 24 hours of starting on medication and also have a significantly lower risk of developing complications from your illness.
1. Have Enough Rest
Sleep allows your body to fight infection, so stay home if you can and try to sleep. Children should be kept home until they have been through 24 hours of antibiotic therapy and no longer have a fever.
2. Drink More Water
Lubricating a sore throat will make it easier to swallow and reduce the risk of dehydration.
3. Moisten the Air
A humidifier can help moisten the air to keep the mucous membranes in the throat from becoming more irritated. Saline nasal spray can help to provide a similar effect. Cool mist humidifiers are preferred and remember to clean it daily because bacteria can grow in warm air versions.
4. Avoid Irritants
Cigarette smoke or fumes from cleaning products, paint and similar products can irritate the lungs and throat, increasing the risk of infections.
5. Gargle with Warm Salt Water
Gargling can help to reduce pain. Create a solution using 8 ounces warm water and ¼ teaspoon table salt to gargle with. If you are helping a child gargle, make sure he or she spits out this liquid when finished.
6. Eat Helpful Food
Sipping broth or soup or eating soft cooked eggs, apple sauce, cooked cereal or mashed potatoes is much easier when suffering from a sore throat. Cold foods like popsicles, sherbet or frozen yogurt can also reduce pain. If you are having trouble swallowing, try pureeing foods before eating. Also avoid spicy or acidic foods which could cause irritation.
Watch a video about how to ease strep throat discomfort at home:
When to See a Doctor
Call your doctor if the sore throat is accompanied by:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lasts longer than 48 hours
- A fever over 101degrees Fahrenheit or lasts longer than 48 hours
- Strep throat has been diagnosed but 24-48 hours of antibiotics show no improvement
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Cola-colored urine a week after infection
- Swelling of the joints, rash or shortness of breath 3 weeks after infection