We see many people walking into with strep throat like symptoms. It can be difficult to differentiate between strep, or “Streptococcal pharyngitis” which is a bacterial throat infection of the throat and the tonsils, and a sore throat, which is often times viral, and not treatable with the use of antibiotics so it is important to have a rapid strep test as a first step towards treatment.
Testing for Strep Throat
A rapid strep test can be done in most health care provider offices. However, it can be negative even if you have strep.
If the rapid strep test is negative and your health care provider still thinks you or your child may have strep, a throat swab can be tested (cultured) to see if strep grows from it. Results will take 1 to 2 days to come back.
Strep throat is most common in children between ages 5 and 15, although anyone can get it.
Strep throat is contagious and spreads by person-to-person contact with fluids from the nose or saliva. It commonly spreads among family or household members and for school children it is especially contagious within the school environment.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Symptoms may be mild or severe. You will often start to feel sick about 2 to 5 days after you come in contact with the strep germ.
A fever may begin suddenly and is often highest on the second day. You may have chills.
You can have a red sore throat, sometimes with white patches. It may hurt to swallow. You may feel swollen, tender glands in your neck.
Other symptoms may include:
- General ill feeling
- Loss of appetite
Some strains of strep throat can lead to a scarlet fever-like rash. The rash first appears on the neck and chest, then it spreads over the body. It may feel like sandpaper.
Treating Strep Throat
Sore throats should only be treated with antibiotics if the strep test is positive. Antibiotics are taken to prevent rare but more serious health problems, such as rheumatic fever.
Penicillin or amoxicillin is usually first tried. Antibiotics should be taken for 10 days, even though symptoms are usually gone after a few days.
The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:
- Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey.
- Gargle several times a day with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup water).
- Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles.
- Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges. Young children should not be given these products because they can choke on them.
- A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.
- Try over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen.