What is strep throat?
Strep throat is an inflamed (red and swollen) throat caused by infection with bacteria called Streptococci. It is diagnosed with a throat culture or a rapid strep test at the doctor’s office.
With antibiotic treatment the fever and much of the sore throat are usually gone within 24 hours. It is important to treat strep throat to prevent some rare but serious complications such as rheumatic fever (a disease that affects the heart) or glomerulonephritis (a disease that affects the kidneys).
How do I take care of myself?
You need the antibiotic prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Take the medicine until all the pills are gone. Even though you will feel better in a few days, take the antibiotic for 10 days to keep the strep throat from flaring up again.
A long-acting penicillin (Bicillin) injection can be given if it will be impossible for you to take the oral antibiotic regularly. (Note: If taken correctly, the oral antibiotic works just as rapidly and effectively as a shot.)
- Fever and pain relief
Gargle warm saltwater (1/4 teaspoon of salt per glass) or an antacid solution. You can suck on hard candy (butterscotch seems to be a soothing flavor). Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for throat pain or fever over 102°F (39°C). If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier.
A sore throat can make some foods hard to swallow. Eat a diet of soft foods for a few days. Drink plenty of liquids.
You are no longer contagious after you have taken the antibiotic for 24 hours. Therefore, you can return to school after one day if you are feeling better and the fever is gone. Hand washing is the best way to prevent strep throat.
- Strep tests for the family
Strep throat can spread to others in the family. Any child or adult who lives in your home and has a fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache, vomiting, sores, doesn’t want to eat, or develops these symptoms in the next 5 days should be brought in for a Strep test. In most homes only the people who are sick need Strep tests. (In families where relatives have had rheumatic fever or frequent strep infections, everyone should have a Strep test.) Your healthcare provider will call you if any of the cultures are positive for strep.
- Recurrent strep throat and repeat Strep tests
Usually repeat Strep tests are not necessary if you take all of the antibiotic. However, about 10% of people with strep throat don’t respond to initial antibiotic treatment. Therefore, if you continue to have a sore throat or mild fever after treatment is completed, return for a second Strep test. If it is positive, you will be given a different antibiotic.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
- You have great trouble swallowing (for example, you can’t swallow your saliva).
- You are feeling very sick.
Call during office hours if:
- The fever lasts over 48 hours after you start taking an antibiotic.
- You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-11-23
Last reviewed: 2011-06-06 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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