Strep throat is a common illness, especially in children. Its symptoms usually include a very sore throat, stomach pain in the lower abdomen, and high fever. The neck glands may also be swollen, and a person may feel ill, weak, and/or achy. The infection itself signifies the presence of large amounts of strep bacteria in the throat and needs to be treated with antibiotics in order to be cured.
Though common today and easily treated, strep throat was once one of the most devastating illnesses a person could get. It frequently progressed to either rheumatic or scarlet fever, which could cause lengthy illness, damage to the heart and even death. Until the discovery of antibiotics, the condition remained complicated and difficult to treat, and like pneumonia was indicated in a number of childhood deaths.
The ability to treat strep with antibiotics is often ignored, and people may adopt a wait and see approach to treating the condition. This is definitely not advised. If a person has a sore throat, high fever, and stomach pain or stomach upset that persists for more than a day, he or she should see a healthcare professional. If the streptococcus bacteria are responsible for the infection the condition will not get better on its own.
The test for strep throat is a fairly simple one. Until recently, doctors had to take a swab from the back of the throat and wait 24-48 hours to detect the presence of thriving strep cells. Today, most physicians have rapid strep diagnosis, which allows a patient to get a diagnosis in about five minutes. When strep is present, antibiotic treatment can begin immediately.
People with this condition usually begin to feel better after a few days of treatment, but it’s important to finish all antibiotics prescribed. Failing to finish the prescribed amount can cause the bacteria to reassert itself, resulting in symptoms emerging again. Occasionally, one form of antibiotic does not adequately kill strep. If symptoms disappear and then reappear a few days later, it’s important to check with a physician about possibly changing to a different antibiotic medication.
Strep throat is most common among children and teens, and most contagious when the greatest number of symptoms present. A person with strep, even on antibiotic treatment can remain contagious for up to 21 days. Normally, the infected person, when not symptomatic, can protect others by not sharing food and observing good handwashing hygiene. Risk of contagion to others decreases sharply after a person’s symptoms have disappeared and he or she has been on antibiotics for a couple of days.
For parents, strep in a child should mean keeping the child at home from daycare, preschool or regular school until a few days after antibiotic treatment has begun and symptoms have cleared. Continued presence of symptoms means greater likelihood of passing the illness to other children. Sometimes children will also have cold or viral symptoms concurrently with strep throat, which makes them more contagious to others. In general, following a doctor’s advice on when a child should return to school is good practice.
Not all fevers and sore throats mean you or your child have strep throat. Lots of viral infections include sore throats and fevers. When this fever persists beyond a day or two, strep may be a possible cause. Fortunately, it has never been easier to diagnose this condition than it is today.