Strep throat is a bacterial infection that belongs to a class known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS), causing pain and inflammation in the throat. In Canada it accounts for up to 15% of sore throats in adults, and up to 30% of sore throats in children, and is one of the dominant complaints that bring individuals in to see Canadian physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary. While strep throat commonly materializes in peak seasons such as late winter and early spring, it can also occur any time of the year.
Streptococci bacteria can be found everywhere. Individuals can carry it on their skin and in their throat, and it is passed around similarly to that of a viral infection – by coughing, sneezing, coming into contact with mucus or saliva, and touching others. Symptoms of strep throat include fever (higher than 38 degrees Celsius), chills, sweating, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, and headache. Strep throat is typically diagnosed by the appearance of the throat (white patches will usually appear around the tonsils in addition to them looking red and inflamed), or by a throat swab, which is sent to a lab for further testing. Commonly, children with strep throat may also develop middle-ear infections, which can be chronic and reoccurring. In rare cases, one may develop meningitis or scarlet fever. Such complications typically do not develop until 1 to 6 weeks after the strep infection. In order to prevent strep throat, you should always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands frequently.
While 90% of sore throats typically get better on their own and can be relieved with things like lozenges, tea and honey, antibiotics will often be prescribed in confirmed diagnoses of strep throat for a period of 5 to 10 days, with Penicillin being the common choice amongst physicians, usually available in oral tablets/capsules or liquid suspension. If you have any known allergies to medications, it is important you let your doctor and pharmacist know so that an alternative medication can be prescribed – these alternative options include Erythromycin, Cephalexin, and Azithromycin. It is always important to finish your prescription, even if symptoms are no longer present. Failure to finish a prescription can result in symptoms returning and worsening. While taking antibiotics you should eat yogurt that contains Lactobacillus Acidophilus, as it will help restore the good bacteria to your digestive tract.