Oh drats – is that a scratchy throat? As cold season approaches, it’s good to know the signs of common illnesses, including strep throat. Strep throat is responsible for roughly 30% of sore throats in kids. Strep throat can be very contagious so its especially important to know the signs and symptoms as well as when to seek medical help.
What is Strep Throat?
The ‘common cold’ is often caused by a virus, but strep throat is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococcus. This bacteria can live in your nose and throat and is easily spread to other people – even if someone doesn’t seem like they’re sick! Once someone starts to get sick from strep throat, here are a few common symptoms to look for:
- Extremely sore throat
- Painful swallowing
- Swollen or red tonsils that can have white patches on them
- TIny, red dots on the roof of your mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes around your neck
Sometimes people can have other symptoms that affect your GI system including nausea and belly pain. A later symptom of strep throat is a rash which can indicate scarlet fever. People with strep throat rarely have a cough or runny nose, which is usually associated with viral illnesses.
How Do You Get Strep Throat?
Strep throat usually affects children, but adults can get strep throat too. Especially if they have school-age children or are often in contact with kids. Since the bacteria lives in your nose and throat, it can be spread to people you’re in close contact with. Strep throat is spread when tiny respiratory droplets with the bacteria on them are shared with someone else. Some ways you can get strep throat include:
- Breathing in these droplets
- Touching something with droplets on them and then touching your face
- Sharing drinks or food with someone who has strep throat
There is a quick (and painless!) test to find out if you or your child has strep throat. Your doctor will take a big Q tip and gently swab the inside of your mouth near your throat. This is called the rapid strep test and results are back within a few minutes.
How Do You Treat Strep Throat?
If you or your child come back with a positive test, your next question will be how do you treat strep throat? Your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria. Thankfully the antibiotics tend to work fairly quickly and the painful symptoms should start improving after a few doses. Your body would eventually fight off a strep throat infection on its own, but taking antibiotics has many benefits. This is why it’s important to seek medical attention if you think you have strep throat. Antibiotics help you or your child feel better more quickly and can also reduce how likely you are to spread the infection to someone else.
Another important reason to take antibiotics is it reduces the risk of a rare but dangerous disease called rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can affect your heart, brain, joints, and skin and can develop if strep throat is not treated. The most common symptoms of rheumatic fever include fever, painful and tender joints, shortness of breath and a rapid heartbeat. If you or your child have these symptoms, they should seek medical care immediately.
How Can You Prevent Strep Throat?
Knowing how you can prevent strep throat can help reduce the chances of you or your child catching it. Since you now know strep throat is spread by sharing those tiny respiratory droplets with someone who has an infection, you can prevent strep throat by reducing how easy it is to spread those droplets. Ways you can prevent strep throat as well as reduce the spread are as simple as:
- Frequent Hand washing!
- Covering your mouth with you sneeze or cough with a tissue or your elbow (rather than your hand)
- No sharing of food or cups with someone who is sick
These tips can help prevent the spread of many other infections as well – including the less common infection mononucleosis, or mono.
Mononucleosis, Mono, or “The Kissing Disease”
Mononucleosis is another infection that has very similar symptoms to strep throat. This is why it’s important to go to a doctor if you have things like a fever, sore throat, or swollen lymph nodes in your throat. If you’re treated with antibiotics for strep throat and your symptoms don’t go away, this could mean you have mononucleosis – which is a viral infection instead of bacterial infection.
Rather than tiny respiratory droplets, mononucleosis is spread through saliva. This can occur if you share food, drinks, utensils – and yes, kiss – someone with the virus. There are blood tests available to determine if you have mononucleosis.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment to cure mononucleosis, the main goal is to treat the symptoms. This includes getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and drinking lots of water. Pain medication can help soothe a sore throat as well as reduce fevers. Working with your doctor, you can create a symptom treatment plan to hopefully help you feel better as your body fights the infection.
We’re Here For You
If you feel you or your child may have strep throat or mononucleosis, our navigators know the next steps for you to take. CareHive’s services are available to our client partners and their members 24/7/365* to facilitate the path to better health. Coupled with the power of sophisticated navigational and clinical services, we’re leading the evolution of human-centered and technology-enabled healthcare to connect people to the right care at the right time. Our navigation team is able to determine precisely what you need, when and how to ensure you get the proper medical care for your concerns.
* CareHive is a B2B digital health company that serves our corporate and provider partners and their employees/members. We do not serve the general public, but let your Employer or Provider know about us if you are interested in our services!