Beta hemolytic strep, also known simply as strep, is a bacterial infection of the throat. Commonly occurring in the late fall and winter seasons, this condition usually spreads among young children and teenagers through direct interpersonal contact. With appropriate medical attention, this condition generally subsides within one week of exposure. If left untreated, strep can result in potentially life-threatening complications.
Individuals exposed to the bacteria which causes strep, known as Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcus (GABS), usually begin experiencing symptoms within three days of initial exposure. Characterized by its sudden onset, strep throat is a highly contagious, airborne infection that spreads when an infected individual sneezes or coughs. Contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs and handles, bathroom surfaces, and inanimate objects, may contribute to the spread of the infection.
Symptomatic individuals may experience fever, inflamed throat, and difficulty swallowing. Young children who contract the infection may also develop a stomachache accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Additional symptoms associated with the infection may include headache, joint pain and stiffness, and white patches on the tonsils and throat. It is possible that some individuals with beta hemolytic strep may be asymptomatic, meaning they exhibit no symptoms at all.
In order to confirm a diagnosis of beta hemolytic strep, one or more tests may be conducted. A throat culture is the most frequently utilized test for supporting a diagnosis of strep throat. Secretion samples are taken from the back of the throat and tonsils with a sterilized swab. Submitted to a laboratory for testing, results from a throat culture may take as many as three to four days to return. To avoid the wait associated with a traditional throat culture, physicians may implement either a rapid DNA test or an antigen test.
Treatment for this condition usually involves the administration of an antibiotic and, in some cases, a mild pain reliever. The use of an antibiotic is essential to alleviating symptoms, reducing the severity of the infection, and decreasing the risk of associated complications. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be utilized to ease symptoms and reduce fever. Additional medical attention should be sought if symptoms have not eased within 48 hours.
Complications associated with beta hemolytic strep include scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and kidney disease. If left untreated, both scarlet and rheumatic fevers can lead to damage and the potential failure of major organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart. When the strep settles in the kidneys, it can potentially damage the organs and impair their ability to cleanse the blood of waste, a condition known as glomerulonephritis.
The spread of beta hemolytic strep can be prevented with conscientious action and consideration. Individuals who are ill remain contagious during the first 24 hours following the initial administration of an antibiotic and should avoid interpersonal contact. To prevent recurrence and potential complications, the entire antibiotic regimen should be finished. Additionally, those with the infection should cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing, be conscientious about washing their hands regularly, and avoid sharing personal items, such as eating utensils, toothbrushes, and drinking glasses.