Strep Throat Symptoms, Contagion, and When to Seek Emergency Care


Strep Throat: Symptoms, Contagion, and When to Seek Emergency Care

Strep Throat Symptoms, Contagion, and When to Seek Emergency Care

Strep throat is a common condition that affects millions of people each year. From its causes and contagious nature to tips for prevention and identifying strep throat symptoms, we aim to provide you with valuable insights. Additionally, we will discuss when it is appropriate to seek emergency care for strep throat-related concerns.

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat, also known as Streptococcal pharyngitis, is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the throat and tonsils. It is caused by the group A Streptococcus bacteria, specifically Streptococcus pyogenes. Strep throat can occur in people of all ages, but it is more commonly seen in children and adolescents.

child with fever

Causes of Strep Throat

Strep throat is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. Common causes of strep throat include:

  • Direct contact with an infected individual’s saliva or nasal secretions.
  • Sharing personal items such as utensils, toothbrushes, or drinking glasses with someone carrying the strep bacteria.
  • Touching surfaces contaminated with the bacteria and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

How Contagious is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is highly contagious, especially during the first two to three days of infection or until the infected individual has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household or attending school or daycare together, increases the risk of transmission.

How to Avoid Getting Strep Throat

To minimize the risk of acquiring strep throat, follow these preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or being in public places.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like utensils, drinks, and towels.
  • Maintain good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow while coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces regularly, particularly if someone in your household has strep throat.
  • Encourage individuals with strep throat to stay home from school or work until they have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
hand washing

How to Identify Strep Throat Symptoms

While a sore throat can have various causes, some specific symptoms can help differentiate strep throat from other conditions. Common signs and symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Severe sore throat, often accompanied by pain while swallowing.
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus.
  • Fever above 101°F (38.3°C). d) Headache, body aches, and fatigue.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck. f) Absence of a cough or nasal congestion (typical of viral infections).
strep throat symptoms

Could a Sore Throat Be Something Else?

Yes, a sore throat can be caused by various factors, including viral infections like the common cold or flu, allergies, postnasal drip, acid reflux, and more. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis, especially if symptoms worsen or persist.

sore throat

When to Go to the Emergency Room

While strep throat can often be managed with a visit to a primary care provider or urgent care center, there are situations that warrant a trip to the emergency room. Consider going to the ER if you experience:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Drooling or significant difficulty opening your mouth.
  • Severe dehydration due to inability to drink fluids.
  • Persistent high fever, especially in young children.
  • A rash or skin discoloration, particularly if it spreads rapidly.
  • Swelling in the face or neck.
  • Worsening symptoms despite appropriate treatment.