If the person seated next to you has a sore, scratchy throat, wear a face mask or keep your distance because they could be having strep throat. But is strep throat contagious? Yes, strep throat can be transmitted through close contact. Continue reading to learn what contagious strep throat is and how it can be treated.
What Is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is a throat infection caused by bacteria called streptococcal pharyngitis. The main symptom of strep throat is a sore, scratchy throat. Unfortunately, these bacteria can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, especially if you come into contact with their mucus or sores.
Common Symptoms of Strep Throat
Generally, strep throat is a minor infection, but its pain can be quite severe. And while it is mainly identified by a sore, scratchy throat, it can also cause other symptoms, including:
• Sore throat that starts very abruptly
• Difficulty swallowing food, drinks, and even saliva
• Mild fever
• Red and inflamed tonsils, at times with white spots or veins of pus
• Small, red spots (petechiae) on the roof of your mouth (the soft or hard palate)
• Inflamed lymph nodes in the front of your neck
Some people with strep throat also experience a headache, stomachache, nausea, and vomiting, especially in kids. They may also develop a rash, which is commonly referred to as scarlet fever (scarlatina).
However, some viral infections cause symptoms that are almost similar to the ones listed above. Here are some of the main symptoms you should look for to know if the cause of the infection is a virus and not strep throat:
• Runny nose
• Hoarseness (a voice that sounds breathy, croaky, or strained)
• Conjunctivitis (pink eyes)
Causes of Strep Throat
As mentioned above, strep throat is normally caused by the streptococcus bacteria that live in your nose, mouth, and on your skin. These bacterial can also cause infections of your ear, skin, tonsils, and sinuses. The microbes can live in your body for many years without causing an infection.
Strep throat is a mild infection that goes away after a few days. However, you should seek the right treatment immediately to avoid serious complications such as kidney problems and rheumatic fever (a disease that’s likely to damage your joints and heart).
How Is Strep Throat Transmitted?
As mentioned above, the bacteria that causes strep throat resides in your mouth, nose, and on your skin. Therefore, you can easily spread to other people, especially when you are infected, by talking, coughing, laughing, or sneezing. Each of these actions produces small droplets that carry the bacteria.
These microbes can also be spread to other people when you come into contact with sores on your infected skin. Once you are exposed to these microbes, it will take you about two days to develop symptoms of strep throat.
Please note that not all infected persons have symptoms or show signs of sickness. Such persons aren’t as contagious as the ones who have a full-blown infection with related symptoms.
You are likely to get sick if you:
• Inhale respiratory droplets that have the bacteria
• Touch the infected droplets and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose
• Eat from the same plate or drink from the same cup as the person who is infected with the bacteria
• Touch the sores on the skin of an infected person and then touch your skin, nose, mouth, or eyes with the infected fluid
Sometimes these microbes can be transmitted through mishandling of food. But this kind of transmission is rare.
How Long Is Strep Throat Contagious?
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Streptococcal microbes spread very fast, and if you have strep throat, you can remain contagious for several days before you start showing signs of sickness. Therefore, you can spread the disease before you become sick. If your child starts to show signs of strep throat, they will remain contagious until they are given antibiotics.
Strep throat stops being contagious after a day of antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics will make you feel better because they eliminate the bacteria. Make sure you finish the dosage even if you feel well.
Treatment for Strep Throat
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Before your doctor recommends any treatment, they will do several simple tests. For instance, they will ask you a few questions about your symptoms and perform a physical examination to determine if you are suffering from strep throat. If the answers you give suggest you have strep throat, your doctor will swab your throat to collect samples of your mucus for further tests.
The two main types of lab tests for strep throat are rapid strep test and throat culture. A rapid strep throat test involves testing the swab to see if group A strep is the cause of the infection. If the results are positive, your doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment. But if the results are negative, but your doctor still suspects you have strep throat, they will do a throat culture test.
A throat culture test involves testing the swab to see if Group A strep microbes will grow from it. This test takes a bit of time because the doctor has to give the bacteria enough time to grow. The good thing with a throat culture test is that it may find bacteria and infections that a rapid strep test is likely to miss.
A throat culture is suitable for kids and teenagers who are likely to develop rheumatic fever, which is caused by untreated strep throat. In adults, a throat culture isn’t necessary if the results of a rapid strep test come back negative. This is because adults aren’t at high risk of developing rheumatic fever from untreated strep throat.
There are different types of treatments for strep throat that your doctor will recommend depending on the severity of your sickness.
As mentioned above, strep throat is caused by streptococcal bacteria. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe different types of antibiotics to cure the infection. However, these antibiotics are more effective if taken within two days of noticing the first signs of the infection. When taken within this period, antibiotics will reduce the time it takes to heal and the severity of symptoms.
Taking antibiotics as soon as possible also reduces your chances of developing severe complications and the chances of infecting other people. School-going children will also be able to resume their studies as soon as possible.
2. Symptom Relievers
Several pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help you to relieve pain in your throat and reduce symptoms of fever. Be careful when giving aspirin to kids and teenagers.
Although aspirin is approved for use by children aged above 3 years, it shouldn’t be given to kids and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu. Aspirin is considered one of the primary causes of Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal condition in kids.
3. Home Remedies
Several home remedies have shown to be effective in treating strep throat and relieving its symptoms. For instance, you should get enough rest, stay fully hydrated, eat soothing foods, gargle with warm salt water, use honey, use a humidifier, and avoid irritants.