Recognizing The Signs Of Strep Throat

HEALTH NOTES

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Sore throats are a common occurrence, especially during the winter months. Although a sore throat is most often a sign of a cold, it can also signal strep throat. Unlike the viruses that cause sore throats affiliated with the cold and flu, the streptococcal (strep) bacteria causes strep throat. Because of this difference, strep throat is easy to treat after being tested by your physician or nurse practitioner.

Strep throat most often occurs in children, ages 3 to 15, but it also affects adults and older children. The strep bacteria are highly contagious and spread through the air when people with the infection cough or sneeze. It occurs most often in the winter months because people tend to spend more time inside within close proximity.

Strep throat is commonly spread between family members, in schools and in day care facilities. It's important to teach your children good hygiene to help avoid getting strep throat. To prevent strep throat, wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Also, do not drink out of the same glass or use the same eating utensils as someone with strep throat. Wash these items in hot soapy water to rid them of infectious germs.

In addition to a sore throat, strep throat symptoms include a fever, swollen lymph glands, difficulty swallowing, headaches and stomach aches in younger children. Strep throat symptoms usually do not bring on other cold symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or a runny nose. If you or your child has cold-like symptoms in addition to a sore throat, it's probably not strep throat.

Because strep throat symptoms may also signal a variety of other ailments, it's important to visit your primary care physician to determine the illness. Your doctor will perform a throat culture to check for the presence of bacteria. During this test, the physician will rub a sterile swab over the back of your throat and tonsils. The swab is then analyzed in the laboratory, which may take up to two days. Additionally, the doctor may use the swab to check for foreign substances in the throat that might signal strep bacteria.

Oral antibiotic medication is the best way to treat strep throat. The antibiotics will help alleviate the symptoms, destroy the bacteria and shorten the contagious period. In order for antibiotics to be most effective, treatment should begin within two to three days after symptoms appear.

In addition to antibiotics, good home care can help ease the symptoms of strep throat. Try to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and use a humidifier. Eating soothing foods such as soup, mashed potatoes, yogurt, frozen popsicles and applesauce can also relieve throat pain.

Strep throat typically disappears within three to seven days. However, if it lasts longer or if you have any questions, contact your physician.

Health Notes is a new feature in The Rim Review. Information on health topics is being provided by area physicians through the Payson Regional Medical Center.

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