Strep throat is a contagious infection caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria or group A streptococcus. It occurs most commonly in children. However, people of all ages can develop this infection. You can get strep throat at any time of the year, but most cases occur during the late fall and early Spring. Although strep isn't particularly dangerous, it can lead to serious complications like rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation if left untreated. Antibiotics help to treat this disorder.
Most people develop strep from exposure to airborne particles from a cough or sneeze as well as sharing foods and drinks. However, you can also develop strep from touching doorknobs or other objects that may have been exposed to this bacteria. The symptoms of strep can include a painful sore throat that lasts longer than two days, fever and painful swallowing, and tender swollen lymph nodes. However, the symptoms of strep throat can mimic other conditions, and this is why doctors run specific tests for strep throat.
In more serious situations, strep can cause severe inflammatory reactions that can lead to a streptococcal infection like scarlet fever, as well as inflammation of the kidneys. This inflammation can also impact the nervous system, joints, heart, and skin. In rare cases, strep may even impact a serious condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder or PANDAS. PANDAS is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that becomes worse once a child develops a strep infection.
Steps can be taken to decrease your chances of developing strep throat. Hand washing, not sharing food and drinks, and covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, are all effective preventative measures.
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