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What is Strep Throat? An Overview

written by: Kecia • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 2/28/2011

Strep throat is a common childhood condition that many experience while still in school. It is essential that you learn when a sore throat may be more than just a pain, as strep throat needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible.

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    What is Strep Throat?

    This ailment is an easily transferrable condition that typically spreads among children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 15. It is one of the most common infections of the throat that is caused by bacteria.

    Strep throat may begin as a regular sore throat, but other symptoms will soon appear. It is important to notice if a sore throat is responding to regular over-the-counter medications. If not, it is possible that the condition is actually strep throat. This ailment needs to be properly diagnosed within a couple of weeks, as strep throat can lead to more serious conditions, such as rheumatic fever.

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    Causes of Strep Throat

    The primary bacteria responsible for strep throat is streptococcus pyogenes, also know as group A strep. It is very contagious, and can easily be spread through nasal drainage or saliva. It can be transmitted through droplets of these secretions when an infected person sneezes or coughs. This is why it is so common among children, as they may forget to practice healthy habits for germs.

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    Strep Throat Symptoms

    It is important to note that the condition is more than just a sore throat. Although this is usually the first sign to manifest within the body, later symptoms can help determine if the ailment is more than just a simple sore throat. Less than half of the cases of sore throat turn out to actually strep throat.

    One thing to notice is the discomfort felt within the throat if trying to decide between a sore throat and strep throat. Pain associated with strep throat will tend to be achy, while a sore throat is generally more stratchy.

    A fever is another common symptom of strep throat. It usually begins rather quickly, and is usually noticeable on the second or third day of the soreness of the throat. Examination of the throat also makes it easy to determine if the pain is more than just a sore throat. In strep throat, there will be red and white pockets along one or both sides of the throat.

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    Diagnosing Strep Throat

    The first step for diagnosing a strep throat is for the doctor to assess the patient's symptoms as well as physical being. The physician will take the affected person's temperature and look at the throat. Appearance alone is usually not enough to determine whether the sore throat is caused by a bacteria or a virus.

    A rapid antigen test is often order to properly diagnose strep throat. This involves swabbing the throat with a long instrument resembling a q-tip. This procedure can provide results within one hour. However, the downside of this test is that it is not always accurate. Some cases of strep throat can be missed. If the results are negative, the doctor may request a throat culture be done on the secretions on the swab. This can take one to two days to complete.

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    Strep Throat Treatment

    Once strep throat has been determined, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic medication for the patient. Penocillin or Amoxicillin are the two most common medications to treat strep throat. They can be administered as a liquid or a shot. Amoxicillan can also be given in the form of a pill. If the patinent is allergic to these medicines, alternatives such as Keflex or Zithromax can be given.