Signs Of Strep Throat And How To Combat It

Don't let a sore throat get in the way of your work-goals. Learn the warning signs of strep throat and how to resolve them. Understand when to seek medical help and at-home remedies to alleviate symptoms.

By Dr. Rajib Paul
24 Jan 2023

Strep throat is a common but painful bacterial infection that affects the throat and tonsils. It’s caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and is highly contagious. Each year, millions of people are affected by this infection.

There are two types of strep, invasive and non-invasive. While invasive strep can be life-threatening and requires constant monitoring, non-invasive strep may be slower to manifest. Keep reading to learn the signs of strep, how to recognise the infection early and what to do to prevent the spread of strep throat.


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How You Get Strep Throat

Strep throat is a highly contagious infection that can spread quickly through close encounters with infected individuals. Imagine tiny droplets of streptococcal bacteria being released into the air every time an infected person sneezes or coughs, ready to infect anyone in their proximity. Even something as innocent as touching an object that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth can lead to a strep throat infection.

While anyone can get infected with strep, children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to streptococcal infections. But don't worry, as adults, we have better immunity, so it's less common for us to catch strep. But it's essential to be mindful of our surroundings and take precautions to avoid spreading the infection.


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Symptoms And Signs of Strep Throat

Key symptoms of strep are:

  • Sudden and severe throat pain is a common symptom, making it difficult to swallow or speak.
  • Inflammation and redness of the tonsils, along with white spots or pus stains, are additional signs of a strep infection.
  • Bright red patches on the upper jaw can also be a symptom of strep.
  • Fever, dizziness, severe headache, body pain and exhaustion are other common symptoms of a strep infection, making an individual feel quite unwell.
  • Nausea and vomiting, particularly in younger age groups, are also possible symptoms of strep.
  • Appetite loss and a dry throat are other symptoms of strep, which can make it hard for the individual to eat or drink.


It's important to note that sore throats can also be caused by colds and other viruses, which typically also include symptoms such as a runny nose but the symptoms mentioned above are unique to strep infections and can help identify it.


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Who Are At Risk

Strep throat is a common yet uncomfortable condition that can be contracted due to certain factors. One of the main factors that can increase the risk of contracting strep throat is being in close proximity to someone who already has the illness. Additionally, spending time in crowded settings such as schools, daycare centres, or corporate offices can also increase the risk.

Individuals between the ages of five and fifteen and parents/caregivers of school-aged children are more likely to get strep throat. Additionally, adults who frequently interact with children, such as teachers or healthcare workers, also have an increased risk of contracting the illness. It's worth mentioning that most adult cases of strep throat happen to people under 40 years old. Since being in close proximity to someone with strep throat is the main risk factor for getting the illness, it's common for multiple members of a household to get infected.


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Treatment And Diagnosis of Strep Throat

Strep throat is a pesky bacterial infection that requires treatment with antibiotics to stop it from spreading. The most common antibiotics prescribed for strep throat are penicillin and amoxicillin. But if you're allergic to these, don't worry! Your doctor may prescribe an alternative medication like azithromycin.

It's worth noting that the choice of antibiotic also depends on whether the strep bacteria in a specific area have become resistant to certain antibiotics.


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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, antibiotics are very useful in treating strep throat. They can help speed up the recovery process, reduce symptoms, stop the spread of the bacteria, and prevent serious complications. However, taking the entire prescribed course of antibiotics is crucial to get rid of the infection fully.

If you stop taking the medication when you start feeling better, it can cause a relapse. Additionally, not finishing the entire course can lead to antibiotic resistance. So, it's important to stick with the treatment plan and finish all the medication prescribed.


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Home Remedies For Strep Throat

Strep throat can be painful, but at-home treatments can help alleviate symptoms. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Get rest: Your body needs time to heal, so ensure you get enough sleep each night.
  • Drink warm beverages: Sipping warm beverages like lemon water, and tea can help soothe a sore throat.
  • Eat soft foods: Stick to soft foods like yoghurt and applesauce to avoid further irritation.
  • Use a humidifier: A cool humidifier can add moisture to the air, which can be especially helpful if you live in a dry climate.
  • Speak to your doctor about pain relievers to help ease any pain.
  • Suck on throat lozenges, ice, or popsicles: These can also help numb the pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Gargle salt water: Mixing one-fourth teaspoon salt with 1 cup of water and gargling the mixture can also help.
  • Try honey and anti-inflammatory foods like ginger to relieve sore throat symptoms.


It's worth noting that these at-home remedies are meant to help alleviate symptoms, not cure strep throat. Antibiotics are still the most effective treatment for strep throat, so make sure you finish the course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Additionally, if you're unsure whether you have strep throat or something else, it's best to check with a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


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Prevention of Strep Throat

Here are some simple ways to avoid strep throat infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is the most effective way to prevent all types of infections.
  • Educate children on the importance of staying clean and washing their hands properly before consuming food.
  • When soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser as a substitute.
  • It is important to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you sneeze or cough, and also instruct children to do the same in public places.
  • Wash dishes, utensils, and water bottles in hot water to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Avoid sharing personal items and food with others.


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1. What is the difference between strep throat and sore throat?

When it comes to throat pain, you may wonder if it's just a sore throat or something more serious like strep throat. Here's the breakdown:

  • Strep throat is a specific type of bacterial infection caused by A Streptococcus bacteria. It affects the tonsils and can cause symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, and red, swollen tonsils. This type of infection is diagnosed by a rapid strep test or a throat culture and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • A sore throat, on the other hand, can have many causes, including viral infections, allergies, dryness and other environmental factors. A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually goes away on its own but can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and other symptom-relieving medications.

In short, strep throat is a specific type of bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment and a sore throat is a symptom which can be caused by many things. If you're experiencing throat pain, it's best to see a healthcare professional to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.


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2. How to distinguish between strep throat and mono?

Mono, also known as infectious mononucleosis, is a viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It commonly affects teenagers and young adults and is spread through saliva, often referred to as "the kissing disease". Symptoms include sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes, similar to strep throat which is caused by a bacterial infection and treated with antibiotics.

Mono has no cure; symptoms typically last a month and are best managed through rest and pain relief. A doctor can perform blood tests to diagnose, and it is important to see a doctor for proper treatment as symptoms of both mono and strep throat can be similar.


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The article contains inputs from Dr. Rajib Paul, general physican/internal medicine, Apollo Hospital Jubilee Hills, Telangana. 






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