Strep Throat: Symptoms, Causes, Risk factors, Complications and Prevention

Sore throats are not necessarily a result of a strep infection always. These may be due to other illness such as common cold, sinus infection, postnasal drip or acid reflux.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. The infection will cause inflammation and pain in the throat which can make you feel as if your throat is sore and scratchy. Strep throat can affect children and adults of any age. However, it is especially common in children between the age group of 5 and 15. The infection can be spread from one person to another by sneezing and coughing. Complications, such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever can occur if left untreated.

Symptoms of Strep Throat:

The severity of strep throat can vary from person-to-person. Mild symptoms like a sore throat can be experienced by some people, whereas other people have more severe symptoms including fever and difficulty swallowing.

Signs and symptoms of strep throat can include:

  • Throat pain that usually comes on quickly
  • Painful swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in your neck
  • Fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rash

Usually within five days of exposure to the bacteria, the symptoms of strep throat would develop. Sore throats are not necessarily a result of a strep infection always. These may be due to other illness such as common cold, sinus infection, postnasal drip or acid reflux.
Usually sore throats caused by other medical conditions improve on their own with or without treatment in a few days. If you experience a sore throat that lasts longer than two days with above symptoms, then it is advisable to visit your doctor.
It is possible that the cause of these signs and symptoms could be a viral infection or some other illness. Therefore some specific test related to strep throat should be done for diagnosis.

Causes of Strep Throat:

The cause of strep throat is a bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes. This is also known as group A streptococcus which are highly contagious. They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks. You can also get these bacteria from a doorknob or other surface when you touch these contagious surface and touch your nose, mouth or eyes.

Risk factors of Strep Throat:

The risk of strep throat infection increases because of

Age:

Strep throat occurs most commonly in children.

Time of year:

Although strep throat can occur anytime, it is more common in early spring. Wherever groups of people are in close contact, there is chances of contamination of strep bacteria.

Complications of Strep Throat:

Strep throat can lead to serious complications which could be due to either spread of infection or inflammatory reactions.
Strep bacteria may spread, causing infection in:

  • Tonsils
  • Sinuses
  • Skin
  • Blood
  • Middle ear

Strep infection may lead to inflammatory illnesses, including:

  • Scarlet fever, which occurs when toxins created by the strep infection cause a scarlet-colored rash to develop on different parts of the body
  • Inflammation of the kidney also known as poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis
  • Rheumatic fever, a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin

Prevention of Strep Throat:

You can follow the following tips to prevent strep infection:

Clean your hands properly:

Proper hand cleaning is the best way to prevent all kinds of infections and maintain a good hygiene. That is why it is important to clean your hands regularly and properly using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer especially before handling food and after using toilet. You should teach your children how to clean their hands regularly and maintain proper hygiene.

Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze:

Teach your children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. You can also cover your mouth and nose when somebody around you cough or sneeze to avoid breathing airborne droplets.

Do not share personal items:

Do not share drinking glasses or eating utensils with anyone. Before using wash dishes in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.


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