Though it is generally a painful but minor experience, strep throat is very contagious and can lead to serious complications if untreated. The infection, which is caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria, is most common in children aged five to 15, though it can affect anyone. Spending time in highly populated areas like daycares or schools raises the likelihood of contracting the infection.
Because delayed treatment can be dangerous and spread the infection, if you recognize any symptoms that might be strep throat, see a doctor right away.
A sore throat that makes it hard to swallow or speak is the most widely prevalent symptom associated with strep throat. This symptom has many causes, so if this is a person's only symptom, a doctor may not yet be able to make a diagnosis. If the pain does not go away in a few days and usual home remedies like keeping quiet and drinking warm fluids does not help, consider making an appointment.
Sometimes, strep throat leads to red, swollen tonsils, visible in the back of the throat. White or yellowish spots and streaks of pus may also appear on these inflamed lymph nodes. Some of these symptoms occur in tonsillitis, so having a strep test done at the doctor's office can determine the correct diagnosis. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics if the strep test comes back positive.
In addition to the tonsils, strep throat can cause inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck, and this can indicate the infection is more serious and is spreading. This quickly recognizable symptom will be easy for the doctor to identify. Shortly after beginning a course of antibiotics, this swelling should start to go down.
Many people with strep throat develop a fever that comes on quickly without the chills that often precede or accompany the symptom. Although people often try to treat a fever at home, if other symptoms of strep throat are present, it is essential to see a doctor and receive a prescription for antibiotics to fight the bacteria. Taking other medications at home can have adverse effects.
Stomach aches, nausea, and vomiting are rare with strep throat, but they can occur. In addition to irritating the throat further, vomiting can lead to dehydration, especially when it's already painful to drink or eat. In most cases, if these secondary symptoms develop, they begin after the throat pain and swollen tonsils, so it's unlikely they will be mistaken for a stomach bug.
Mild to moderate body aches are common with strep throat infections. Many people develop a headache along with fatigue and general malaise. As with many other illnesses, these symptoms are usually due to the body working hard to fight off the bacteria. In addition to taking prescribed antibiotics, rest and hydration should ensure these symptoms fade within a few days of the throat symptoms easing.
The strep bacterium sometimes produces a toxin that results in an allergic reaction and a rash. Red and bumpy, this topical symptom can develop on the neck, chest, torso, or back and is most common for infected people who have weak immune systems, such as young children and elderly adults. As with other signs and symptoms of strep, antibiotics can help reduce the severity and speed healing.
The sore throat and swollen tonsils of strep throat often cause sharp or scraping pain when swallowing food or fluids. While it's tempting to avoid eating and drinking, giving the body these nutrients is essential to staying healthy. Warm fluids like soup or herbal tea can help soothe the throat and ensure the infected person stays hydrated. Be sure to eat and drink slowly, as the pain makes choking more likely.
Strep infections can cause aching muscles, stiff joints, and general malaise. This is common to most infections because the white blood cells released to fight off the bacterial invaders cause inflammation throughout the body. Staying hydrated, taking warm baths and using a heating pad on the sore spots, and resting as much as possible will help manage these symptoms while the body manages the infection.
Many infections, including strep, tonsillitis, and thrush, can cause white spots on the back of the throat and along the tonsils. These are usually collections of pus, another result of the influx of white blood cells recruited to fight the infection. Taking the prescribed antibiotics will help fight off the strep bacterium, and the white spots will go away as the body heals.
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