Caused by a bacterium in the streptococcus family, strep throat is an infection that most frequently affects children, though it can spread to people of any age. Strep throat is easy to treat with antibiotics, so it’s rarely dangerous, as long as you seek medical treatment.
Alpha Internal Medicine in Lafayette, Georgia, specializes in diagnosing and treating strep throat. Dr. Betsy Horton and her team are standing by to help you and your family make quick work of this common infectious disease before it becomes a medical issue.
The cause of strep throat
You can be infected with streptococcal bacteria from airborne droplets or transfer from surfaces. Streptococcus pyogenes is the specific culprit when you have strep throat. It’s most often active in the winter and early spring months, when people are indoors and in close contact.
Children are most vulnerable to the strep bacteria, but adults who are often in contact with school-aged children carry an increased risk. It’s common for strep throat to spread through a household. Not everyone who is infected with the strep bacteria is symptomatic. They can still spread the disease in some circumstances.
Symptoms of infection
Most sore throats result from viruses. These tend to come on slowly and in conjunction with symptoms of respiratory infection. When throat pain is due to streptococcus bacteria, your pain usually comes on quickly. It may be accompanied by fever, but you likely won’t have a cough.
Swallowing is often difficult, and you could have other signs, like swollen tonsils that are red in color as well as spots in the back of your mouth that are also red. Headaches, body aches, rashes, and swollen lymph nodes could each be present.
Note that the symptoms of strep throat could be due to another illness or viral infection. Strep throat is usually confirmed with a specific test before treatment.
Complications of strep throat
Strep throat typically responds well to treatment with antibiotics. Pain and other symptoms often ease up quickly, within about 24 hours. While it’s possible that your body can fight off the strep throat infection in about a week, it’s also possible that the infection can spread, and this is potentially dangerous. You can also develop serious inflammatory reactions.
When a strep throat infection spreads, it may affect your:
- Middle ear
Inflammatory illnesses can be an even bigger problem. Untreated strep throat could lead to:
- Scarlet fever
- Rheumatic fever, which can affect your heart, nervous system, and joints
- An inflammatory joint condition called poststreptococcal reactive arthritis
- Inflamed kidneys
So, without treatment, strep throat has the potential to be quite serious. Considering the ease of treatment, there’s no reason why any case of strep throat needs to advance to these more serious stages.
You can cope with the pain and fever of strep throat in its early stages by using over-the-counter pain relievers including acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Don’t use aspirin with children between the ages of 3 and 18, due to a potential link with a rare condition.
Then contact Alpha Internal Medicine by phone or online to book an exam to diagnose and treat strep throat. The sooner you’re treated, the sooner your throat returns to normal. Make an appointment as soon as possible.