Strep Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

If you’re experiencing sore throat, swollen glands, or discomfort when swallowing, it might be more than just a common cold; it could be strep throat. Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can cause pain and complications if left untreated.

Finding quality primary care in Maryland is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

This comprehensive guide covers the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of strep throat, helping you understand when to seek medical care.

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Key Takeaways

  • Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria and needs prompt medical attention.
  • Symptoms of strep throat include severe throat pain, swollen glands, fever, and sometimes white patches on the throat.
  • Strep throat is contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, as well as by sharing utensils or personal items.
  • Diagnosis involves a physical examination by a healthcare provider and may include rapid strep tests or throat cultures.
  • Treatment for strep throat typically involves antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, along with supportive care such as rest, hydration, and home remedies.
  • Untreated strep throat can lead to serious complications, including rheumatic fever, kidney problems and scarlet fever.

What Are the Symptoms of Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by a specific group of bacteria called Group A Strep, usually Streptococcus pyogenes. This type of sore throat is different from a regular one.

Here’s what to look out for if you think you might have strep throat:

  • Severe throat pain: Sudden onset of pain, often without coughing.
  • Red and swollen tonsils: Sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus.
  • Tiny red spots: These may appear on the roof of the mouth.
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes: Tender neck glands located at the front of the neck.
  • Fever: A high temperature indicating infection.
  • Headache, nausea, or vomiting: Especially in children and younger patients.

Recognizing these symptoms early can lead to a quicker diagnosis and treatment, reducing the risk of complications.

Does Strep Throat Cause Cough?

Strep throat doesn’t usually make you cough. Unlike the common cold or other infections, where coughing is common because of mucus in the throat and lungs, strep throat mainly causes a very sore throat, high fever, and swollen neck glands.

If you have a sore throat and are coughing, it’s less likely to be strep throat but may be a cold or another kind of infection. The best way to know for sure is to find get quality primary care in Maryland to check your symptoms and test for strep throat.

Can Someone Have Strep Without Fever or Sore Throat?

Though rare, it’s possible, to have strep throat without the classical symptoms of fever and sore throat. Certain people may carry strep bacteria in their throat without any symptoms, a condition known as being a “strep carrier.”

Strep carriers don’t feel sick but can still spread the bacteria to others. However, in most cases of strep throat, symptoms like a sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes are present.

If you suspect you have strep throat but lack the typical symptoms, find quality primary care near Rockville MD for a comprehensive check-up.

What Does Strep Throat Look Like?

Strep throat typically appears as a bright red throat with swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus. You may also notice small red spots on the roof of the mouth.

Unlike other causes of sore throat, strep throat is redder and more intense. If you look into your mouth with a light and mirror and see these signs, it’s a good idea to look for quality primary care near Rockville MD for advice, especially if you’re also experiencing severe sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Strep throat is contagious. Respiratory droplets containing the virus spread when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. If you breathe in these respiratory droplets or touch something they’re on, like a doorknob, and then touch your mouth or nose, you could get strep throat.

Sharing food or drinks with an infected person can also spread the infection. Strep throat is most likely to spread to others before the person knows they are sick and starts taking medicine.

After someone with strep throat starts taking antibiotics, they usually can’t spread the infection after 24-48 hours. To prevent infecting others, people with strep throat should stay away from others, stay home from work or school, wash their hands often, and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.

Sore Throat: Other Causes

While strep throat is a common cause of sore throat, there are many other causes. Viral infections, like the common cold or flu, are the most frequent culprits. Allergies, dry air, pollution, smoking, and even talking loudly or for long periods can also irritate the throat and cause pain.

Unlike strep throat, viral sore throats often come with symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, and hoarseness, but typically without the high fever and severe pain associated with strep. Booking a consultation with your local primary care doctor in Rockville MD can help you find out the cause of a sore throat and start the right treatment.

How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

To diagnose strep throat, your doctor will usually start with a physical examination, looking for signs like red and swollen tonsils, white patches on the throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

If strep throat is suspected, several tests can be done in the office

  • Rapid strep test: This test is done by swabbing the throat and can give results in minutes. It’s good for spotting the strep bacteria fast, but it’s not perfect and might miss some cases.
  • PCR test: This is a more precise test that also involves a throat swab. It uses special technology to find the strep bacteria’s genetic material. It’s very accurate and can usually give results the same day or the next.
  • Throat culture: If the rapid test is negative but strep throat is still suspected, a throat culture might be done. This test takes longer, usually 24 to 48 hours, because the swab is put on a petri dish to see if strep bacteria grow.

If you suspect you might have strep throat and want to get tested, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr Suresh Malik today

How Long Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Strep throat is contagious until the infected person has been on antibiotics for about 24-48 hours. Without treatment, it can be spread for up to three weeks, even if symptoms have subsided. Therefore, starting antibiotic treatment as soon as strep throat is confirmed is essential.

After 24 hours of antibiotics, the risk of spreading the bacteria to others decreases significantly. However, to fully prevent spreading the infection, it’s important to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics, practice good hand hygiene, and avoid close contact with others during the contagious period.

How Does Strep Throat Spread?

Strep throat is passed from person to person through tiny droplets in the air. This happens when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes and then someone else breathes in these droplets. You can also get strep throat by touching something that has these droplets on it, like a door handle, and then touching your mouth or nose. Sharing things like cups or eating utensils with someone who has strep throat can also spread the bacteria. Places where people are close together, such as schools and homes, are common areas where strep throat can easily spread.

Strep Throat Treatment

To treat strep throat effectively, your doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics, which target and kill the bacteria causing the infection. The choice of antibiotic often depends on the individual’s medical history, any allergies, and the local patterns of antibiotic resistance. Common antibiotics used include penicillin and amoxicillin, known for their effectiveness against strep throat. 

In cases where a patient is allergic to penicillin, the doctor may opt for alternative antibiotics such as azithromycin or clarithromycin. The right antibiotic is crucial to ensure the treatment is effective and to minimize the risk of side effects or complications.

Your doctor will also recommend over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage the pain and fever associated with strep throat. It is essential to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics to fully eradicate the infection, prevent its spread, and avoid the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Supportive care, including rest, hydration, and a soft diet, along with home remedies like salt water gargling, can also be beneficial in easing the symptoms and promoting recovery.

What Are Some Home Remedies for Strep Throat?

These home remedies can be used alongside prescribed treatment to alleviate your symptoms.

  • Gargle with warm salt water: Dissolve a half-teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and gargle to reduce throat pain and swelling.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, like water, herbal teas, or warm broths, to keep the throat moist and ease pain.
  • Honey and lemon: Mixing honey and lemon in warm water can soothe the throat and has antimicrobial properties.
  • Humidifiers: Using a humidifier in your room adds moisture to the air, which can relieve throat discomfort.
  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest helps the body fight off the infection more effectively.
  • Avoid irritants: Stay away from cigarette smoke and cleaning products that can irritate the throat.

These remedies are not a substitute for professional medical care and should be used in conjunction with prescribed medications to manage symptoms during your recovery process.

How Long Does Strep Throat Last?

People start feeling ill around 2-5 days after exposure to the bacteria. After symptoms develop, strep throat typically lasts for 3 to 7 days with appropriate treatment. Without treatment, the symptoms can persist for longer, potentially leading to complications or spreading the infection to others. 

After starting antibiotics, patients often begin to feel better within 24 to 48 hours. However, it’s crucial to continue taking the prescribed medication for the entire duration recommended by a healthcare professional, usually 10 days, to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria.

Strep Throat Complications

Untreated strep throat can lead to serious complications. These complications can affect different parts of the body and include:

  • Rheumatic fever: This can damage the heart valves and joints, occurring weeks after the initial strep throat infection.
  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis: A kidney disease that can develop after a strep infection, affecting the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.
  • Sinus infections
  • Ear infections
  • Peritonsillar abscess: A collection of pus near the tonsils, causing severe throat pain, swelling, and difficulty swallowing.

Finding the best doctor in Maryland for the proper treatment of strep throat with antibiotics can greatly reduce the risk of these complications.

Other Sore Throats Don’t Need Special Medicine, So Why Does Strep Throat?

Most sore throats are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics, but strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. Antibiotics are necessary to kill the bacteria and prevent potential complications like rheumatic fever or kidney problems.

Identifying strep throat requires a specific test because its symptoms can be like viral ones. While many sore throats get better with rest and home remedies, strep throat requires antibiotic treatment to ensure a complete recovery and prevent spread to others.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that requires prompt medical attention for effective treatment and prevention of complications. If you’re experiencing symptoms like throat pain, fever, or swollen glands, book an appointment with a quality primary care physician in Rockville, MD, for proper diagnosis and treatment.

By understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of strep throat, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this infection.

Strep Throat Treatment Near Me

If you suspect you or a loved one may have strep throat, contact Dr Suresh Malik for expert diagnosis and personalized treatment options. Your health and well-being are our top priority. 

Schedule an appointment now to get the care you need.