Strep throat symptoms usually appear due to a bacterial infection. This means that they can be different from the symptoms of the common cold.
Additionally, strep throat is treated differently than a sore throat. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to identify the symptoms and what your best treatment options are.
In this guide, our experts break down seven things you need to know about your potential strep throat symptoms, including how to get rid of them.
Strep Throat Symptoms: Fever But No Coughing
The majority of sore throats due to respiratory illnesses are usually accompanied by some kind of cough. However, that doesn’t mean it’s strep throat.
Instead, it’s a sore throat that appears suddenly, causing great pain, especially when swallowing. You may find swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
The tonsils can also get red and swollen, occasionally with white bumps and pus, as well as small red spots on the ceiling of the mouth.
Another tell-tale sign is a fever, signaling a full-on infection. Sometimes a skin rash called impetigo may also appear, especially in young children. It is known as scarlet fever (scarlatina).
Testing Is The Only Way To Confirm Strep Throat Symptoms
The name “strep throat” comes from the name of the specific bacteria responsible for the illness. It belongs to Group A Streptococcus, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes.
While viral infections like the common cold or the flu can be diagnosed through symptoms, strep throat can only be definitively diagnosed through a rapid swab test or a throat culture.
A rapid test can quickly show whether it is strep throat. However, in children and teens, if a rapid test is negative but the doctor still suspects strep throat, a throat culture swab will be taken.
This is because strep throat in children and teens can lead to long-term damage if left untreated.
It’s Highly Contagious
Although it is usually a mild infection, strep throat is highly contagious, and it can lead to serious complications if left undiagnosed and untreated.
It is especially important to prevent spreading the disease to others. The bacteria thrive in the throat and nasal passages and can easily be spread when bacteria-containing small droplets leave one’s mouth or nose through sneezing, coughing, talking, or breathing.
You can also catch strep throat by touching sores on the skin caused by the same bacteria. While not all infections may present symptoms, those who have symptoms are more likely to infect others, which usually appear 2-5 days after exposure.
Schools Are Common Spreaders Of Strep Throat Symptoms
Schools are notorious for being breeding grounds for a strep throat contagion. This is because children and teens are usually together in close proximity, touching the same surfaces and objects.
Just like colds and flu, parents are also at high risk of catching strep throat if their child comes home infected.
Adults who work with children, such as teachers or day-care workers are also very likely to catch the infection. Other crowded settings like military camps, prisons, and university dormitories can easily spread strep throat.
It Usually Does Not Go Away On Its Own
There are no vaccines for strep throat, nor does the infection usually go away on its own. Untreated strep throat in children can lead to rheumatic fever (affecting the heart, brain, and joints) or post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (affecting the kidneys).
So, it is critical for you or your child to get tested when symptoms appear. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics to all positive cases, and symptoms will usually ease within 48 hours.
It is important that you or your child finish the antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. If you stop taking the antibiotics when you already feel better, you may make the bacteria resistant to the antibiotic itself.
Home Remedies Can Soothe The Pain
The worst symptom to deal with when you have strep throat is throat pain. At the first sign of symptoms, gargling with salt water is a great and easy way to soothe the throat, as the salt is naturally antibacterial and helps slow bacterial proliferation.
You may also want to add ginger, honey, or lemon to your tea for an additional antibacterial and soothing action. The best part is that cool and soft foods like ice cream and yogurt are also acceptable to help soothe the throat.
Strep Throat Symptoms Can Be Prevented
Being hygienic can prevent strep throat infections. If you or your child has strep throat, stay home from school and work while you’re healing. Take antibiotics to reduce the duration of your symptoms, and the period in which you can spread the disease to others.
Practice proper and frequent handwashing with soap and water. Wash surfaces, plates, and eating utensils before using them. Also, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing in public.
Properly dispose of used tissues to prevent contamination of other surfaces. As much as possible, maintain distance and avoid interacting closely with other members of the household. However, you can wear a face mask if necessary.
TCM’s Take On Strep Throat Symptoms
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Peh Wei Jie, strep throat is acute pharyngitis or sudden painful inflammation of the throat due to an invasion by an external pathogen in the environment “causing congestion of qi (vital energy) and breeding of Heat.”
This is likely to happen when the immune system is compromised due to an imbalance in emotions, over-work, and a Qi Deficiency.
There are three conditions under which one is more likely to exhibit symptoms of strep throat: external Wind-Heat, external Wind-Cold, or Heat in the Lung and Stomach.
“The first two conditions are due to the invasion of the body by external pathogenic factors, whether it is Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold, causing a battle between the pathogenic factors and the body’s immunity. The third condition is due to an abundant intake of spicy and fried foods, bringing about excessive Heat in the Stomach and Lung meridians,” Physician Peh elaborates.
Taking a Heat expulsion supplement may reduce excessive Heat in the Stomach and Lungs to reduce strep throat symptoms. A fever relief supplement may also help manage excessive Heat symptoms in the body, including fever, sore throat, and cough.
Your TCM physician will examine you to determine the cause. He or she will prescribe a regimen that will either purge the infection or boost immunity, or both. You can also take certain herbal medications targeting the reduction of Heat from the Stomach and Lung. Your TCM physician can also conduct Heat-clearing acupuncture to help relieve symptoms.
Remember these key points the next time symptoms of strep throat inflict a member of your household. While it may seem like just another sore throat, you must deal with the bacterial infection that causes this illness. This is to prevent the sickness from developing into more serious conditions.
Strep throat is very contagious and can put a hold on your daily life. It’s best to take the necessary precautions at the first sign of a painful and scratchy throat, whether yours or your child’s.
- Microbial Cell. 2018. Protective roles of ginseng against bacterial infection.
- Center for Disease Prevention and Controls (CDC). 2022. Strep Throat: All You Need to Know.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Strep Throat.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2020. The Difference between a Sore Throat, Strep & Tonsillitis.
- Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2014. Anti-inflammatory and Antimicrobial Effects of Heat-clearing Chinese Herbs: A Current Review.
- Frontiers in Microbiology. 2019. Validation of a 16th Century Traditional Chinese Medicine Use of Ginkgo biloba as a Topical Antimicrobial.
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