While it’s more common in children, strep throat can strike people of any age, most often in the winter or spring. And while most sore throats are due to viruses, strep throat is caused by and gets its name from group A Streptococcus bacteria. Though medically it’s considered a mild infection, strep throat can be very painful.
In general, sore throats are quite common, but strep throat is not. Perhaps three out of ten children with sore throats have strep, while it’s more like one in ten for adults. However, group A strep bacteria can cause serious complications, so prompt treatment of strep throat is important for reasons other than pain relief.
Dr. Scott Bateman of Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat is a specialist in conditions of the throat, so he can quickly diagnose strep throat and advise you on the proper course of treatment. Here’s what you need to watch for to determine the cause of your sore throat.
Recognizing strep throat
Perhaps the most identifiable symptom of strep throat is its rapid onset. You may feel fine at breakfast only to find you’re unable to swallow at lunch time. Typical sore throats tend to take much longer to develop.
The severity of strep is another distinctive feature. While swallowing is often uncomfortable when you have a sore throat, strep throat makes it quite painful, creating the sense that you’re having the worst sore throat ever.
The pain and swallowing difficulty is often accompanied by fever and lymph node swelling on the front of your neck. Visual clues include swollen tonsils that are red in appearance. They may also have streaks of pus or white spots. Red spots called petechiae may appear on the roof of the mouth. Some strep throat patients develop a red rash on their body, which is referred to as scarlet fever.
Less specific symptoms include head and stomach aches, and children may experience nausea or vomiting. Most strep throat symptoms, though, could result from other illnesses, so a visual exam is usually confirmed by a test that specifically identifies the bacterial infection.
It may not be strep throat
Some symptoms suggest that a sore throat is not strep throat. For instance, if your voice becomes hoarse, strained, or raspy, your sore throat likely has another cause. Similarly, strep throat doesn’t make you cough or cause congestion or a runny nose. If pink eye (conjunctivitis) is present, it suggests a sore throat is not caused by strep.
Treating strep throat
Clearing up strep throat quickly usually takes oral antibiotics. These act quickly on the symptoms, relieving the sore throat in about 24 to 48 hours. Though the medication produces fast results, it’s important to continue the course until it’s done, to completely eliminate the bacteria and the resulting infection. Follow Dr. Bateman’s instructions closely.
Despite the fast onset and sharp pain, strep throat is easy to treat when you act promptly. Contact Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat at the first signs of trouble, and for the fastest relief. Call the office directly at 307-672-0290, or use the online link to schedule your appointment.