Everyone suffers from a sore throat now and then. One of the causes of the sore throat is a bacterial infection known as Strep Throat. The patient's throat feels scratchy and it hurts. Strep throat, if left untreated, may lead to complications like rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation. Strep throat is more common in people of ages 5 to 16. Antibiotics are given for treatment once the diagnosis is confirmed.
Causes of Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
Strep throat is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes which is a bacterium. It is also known as group A streptococcus (GAS). These bacteria are extremely contagious and can easily spread from one person to another via airborne droplets like when someone sneezes or coughs. It can also spread through sharing drinks and food. Streptococcal bacteria can also be transmitted to healthy individuals by touching contaminated surfaces, doorknobs etc.
Risk Factors for Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
- Young people, especially those who are aged between 5 and 16 are more commonly affected by strep throat.
- The risk of getting a strep throat is more in certain seasons like late fall and early spring.
- People spending more time closeted together such as in schools, daycare, family members tend to catch this infection more easily due to its easy spread.
Signs and Symptoms of Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
- Pain in the throat or sore throat.
- Patient has difficulty in swallowing.
- Patient has fever and headache.
- The tonsils become red and swollen and may also have white patches or pus streaks.
- The soft or hard palate may have small red spots on them.
- The lymph glands/nodes of the neck become tender and swollen.
- Patient may also experience stomachache and vomiting, particularly children.
- Weakness and lethargy.
Serious Symptoms of Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
- Swollen and painful lymph glands/nodes.
- If the patient has sore throat beyond 48 hours even after the treatment has started.
- If the fever is more than 101 F (38.3 C) in older children or if the fever persists for more than 48 hours.
- Presence of a rash with sore throat.
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- If the condition hasn't improved even after taking antibiotics for more than 2 days.
- Painful joints or joint swelling can indicate rheumatic fever.
- If the urine is cola-colored after a week from diagnosis of a strep then this may indicate inflammation of the kidneys, i.e. post streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
Investigations for Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
- Physical examination to check for symptoms of strep throat like enlarged lymph nodes, fever, swollen tonsils or presence of pus on tonsils.
- Throat culture to test for the presence of bacteria.
- Rapid antigen test helps in detecting the presence of strep bacteria in a few minutes, whereas throat culture takes 2 days for results.
Treatment for Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
Antibiotics are the main line of treatment in strep throat. Oral antibiotics prescribed are:
- Amoxicillin belongs to the same family as penicillin. It is mostly preferred in children, as its taste is better and it is also available in a chewable form.
- Penicillin is also given for strep throat. It is given in injection form if the child is having difficulty in swallowing or is vomiting a lot.
- Other antibiotics which are used if the child is allergic to penicillin are cephalosporin, clarithromycin, azithromycin and clindamycin.
- Other than antibiotics, medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are given to relieve other symptoms such as pain and fever.
- It is very important to complete the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor, even after the child is feeling better. If the treatment is left incomplete, then it may lead to other complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.
Home Remedies for Strep Throat or Group A Streptococcus (GAS)
- Rest is very important, as it helps in fighting the infection better.
- It is very important to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration and also to help with swallowing.
- Soft foods or liquid diet, such as soft fruits, mashed potatoes, soups, broths etc. should be taken. Spicy foods and acidic foods should be avoided.
- Gargling with warm salt water many times in a day helps in relieving throat pain as well as fighting infection.
- Using a humidifier adds moisture to the dry air and relieves discomfort.
- Saline nasal sprays are beneficial in keeping the mucous membranes moist.
- Irritants such as cigarette smoke, paint fumes should be avoided as they can further irritate a sore throat and increase the risk of other infections such as tonsillitis.