All cases of strep throat are caused by the same bacteria; streptococcal or strep for short. Though there are different forms of the same bacteria, which cause mild, moderate or severe forms of strep throat. Sore throats are not the same as strep throat, and are caused by viral infections as opposed to the strep bacteria. The main way to tell the difference between a sore throat and strep throat, is that with strep it is only your throat and tonsils that are affected. With a sore throat, you often have signs of the viral infection like coughing, a running or stuffy nose or sneezing. The strep bacteria are contagious and can be passed to others from contact, coughing or sneezing or by using the same drinking glass. It is very common for strep o be passed between family members which is why you should get treatment as soon as you show signs of strep throat.
The signs and symptoms of a strep throat can not only let you know you may have strep but distinguish it from a simple sore throat. With strep throat, you will have a sore throat that is severe and comes on suddenly, pain while swallowing, swollen lymph nodes or tonsils, a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and yellow or white spots on a bright red throat. With a sore throat, you will probably have signs of a bacterial infection or cold, such as sneezing, coughing, runny nose or stuffy nose and body aches or weakness. Less common symptoms include a headache, rash, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. If you have a persistent, high fever, tender and swollen lymph nodes, sore throat for longer than 48 hours, difficulty swallowing or breathing or swelling in the joints, you should get medical attention immediately. To diagnose strep throat, your doctor will perform a physical examination including checking your temperature, feeling your lymph nodes and looking at your throat, followed by a rapid strep test. They might also take a throat culture though it isnt always necessary to diagnose strep throat.
If you suspect you have strep throat, see a doctor as soon as possible. Because it is a type of infection, strep throat is always treated with antibiotics. Once you start antibiotics, your body decreases the amount of infection and after 24 hours you will no longer be contagious. If you start to feel better after a couple days, continue taking the antibiotics as directed. You should get treatment for strep throat not only because you can have it for several weeks and it may lead to other complications, but because without antibiotics, youre contagious for 2-3 weeks. In that period of time, it could spread to everyone you have contact with.
Over-the-counter medications might also be included in your recommended treatment to relieve pain and reduce your fever. If you know someone else with strep throat, the best way to prevent getting it is by avoiding contact with them and washing your hands often. Until the antibiotics kick in, you can get relief from drinking cold liquids, gargling with warm salt water, drinking lemon tea and using a humidifier. A strep throat could lead to complications if you dont get treatment for it, including an ear infection, rheumatic fever, mastoiditis, scarlet fever or sinusitis.