Do you feel like you are swallowing needles while eating meals?
Are you running a fever of 101°F or greater?
If you have above symptoms, then these are probably the warning signs of strep throat and not sore throat. You may be following simple home remedies thinking that you are suffering from a sore throat.
But, just wait for a while before you jump to this conclusion!
You may feel better automatically after a few days without taking medications. But, it can lead to serious problems later in your life, which will be discussed later in the article.
What Is Strep Throat and How Does It Differ From Common Sore Throat?
Strep throat is a bacterial infection (3) that causes pain and inflammation in the throat and the tonsils. You’ll have a sudden sore throat along with a fever over 101°F. Mostly school going children and teenagers suffer from this bacterial infection.
Many of you must be confused between a sore throat and strep throat– Am I right? For those who don’t know – Common sore throat is caused due to viral infections while strep throat is caused due to bacterial infection.
A sore throat will usually be fine on its own within a week and you may have minor or no fever. However, if you have strep throat, you’ll be suffering from high fever, loss of appetite and swollen tonsils.
Some of you might have taken antibiotics without getting it diagnosed by your doctor. I have also done it many times when I was a teenager. I would like to inform you that antibiotics have no effect on viral infections (4). You may become ‘antibiotics resistant’ if you take them without any need.
What Causes Strep Throat?
Strep throat is caused by streptococcal bacteria (5).
Out of all the strains of streptococcal bacteria, GAS (Group A Streptococcus) bacteria, (specifically Streptococcus pyogenes) is the one responsible for this condition. (6).
This bacterial infection will invade your pharyngeal tissue (7), leading to inflammation and irritation in tonsils and throat. The infection usually spreads via air passage when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
You may also get infected if you touch any object that has come in contact with the infected individual.
What Are The Signs Of Strep Throat?
1. Sudden & Severe Sore Throat Along With Painful Swallowing
If you have sore throat due to GAS bacteria, then it’ll take only a few hours to develop. This is the beginning sign of strep throat and is more painful than a normal sore throat.
You may feel like swallowing sandpaper while drinking water or eating meals.
2. Fever Over 101°F
If you have developed sudden sore throat along with a fever over 101°F (38.3°C), you’re most probably suffering from strep throat.
3. Red & Swollen Tonsils With White Patches
If you’re suffering due to Group A Streptococcus, then you may see red and swollen tonsils with white patches or streaks of pus. You may also have above signs with tonsillitis (8), but then you won’t be suffering from a fever.
4. Swollen & Tender Lymph Nodes
Another symptom of strep throat is swollen and tender lymph nodes in your neck.
5. Skin Rashes or Body Aches
If you’ve developed sudden unusual rashes (9) on your skin and your whole body is aching, you should seek medical help regardless of whether you’re infected with strep throat or not.
These symptoms could be linked to a variety of other medical conditions.
6. A headache, nausea or vomiting
These are the common symptoms of flu and cold. Thus, it makes it difficult for the doctor to determine whether you have strep throat signs or not.
Your doctor will usually perform a throat swab culture (10) to test if its GAS bacteria which is bothering you.
Your doctor will prescribe you medications only after the result of this laboratory test.
Is Strep Throat Infectious?
A lot of people have asked this question on various health related forums and websites. You may also have Googled queries like – How infectious is strep throat?
Well, I would like to inform you that according to various studies and research, it has been found that strep throat is moderately infectious (11). Normally, it is spread by the passage of saliva or airborne droplets from the infected person to another individual.
How do you get strep throat?
You may have caught the Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria from your family member, classmate or by sharing utensils or drinking cups.
It has been found that the risk of contracting a strep throat infection is nearly 40 percent in household environments.
How Long Does Strep Throat Last?
If you don’t take antibiotics, then strep throat can be contagious for about 2-3 weeks. However, if you have taken antibiotics, then normally you’ll not be contagious after 24 to 36 hours of initiating antibiotic therapy (12).
Antibiotics For Strep Throat
According to a research, nearly 15 million people in the United States visit the doctor for a sore throat annually.
It was found that more than 70 percent of them received antibiotics, although only 20 to 30 percent of them actually had strep throat.
Strep throat is caused by streptococcus bacteria and not by a virus. People who are suffering from a sore throat which is caused by some virus, shouldn’t be treated with antibiotics.
According to the published guidelines of Infectious Diseases Society of America for diagnosis and management of Group-A streptococcal Pharyngitis (13).
- Before taking any over-the-counter antibiotics, you should get yourself diagnosed for Group A Streptococcus.
Normally, you’ll be given Penicillin (14) for strep throat. (unless you’re not allergic to it.)
In most cases, your doctor will ask you to take antibiotics for nearly 10 days. Your doctor may also give you a single shot of penicillin.
I have often seen people who stop taking medications after seeing signs of improvement. Have you ever done this?
If yes, then I would advise you to not ditch your medications before the full course of treatment is completed. You may have to face dangerous consequences for the premature halting of your dosage.
In some cases, untreated strep throat has led to complications like kidney disorder (18) and rheumatic fever (19). You better finish the entire prescription of antibiotics, so that you don’t have to face repercussions.
Home Remedies To Ease Strep Throat Symptoms
If you have a common sore throat caused due to a virus, then only the home remedies could help you to get rid of it. However, if you’re infected with strep then you need to undergo proper strep throat treatment to avoid aforementioned complications.
As per National Institutes of Health, following are some home remedies that may whelp you to relieve your symptoms.
1. Delicious Honey May Knock Out Strep Bacteria
According to the NIH, if you drinking warm tea with honey, it can help you reduce the signs of strep throat and can you relief.
Some preliminary studies (20) have shown that honey may possess bacteria-fighting properties. However, it’s not known whether it can combat Streptococcus pyogenic bacteria or not.
I have tried drinking ginger tea mixed with honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice and it has worked for me in easing the pain.
2. Gargle With Warm Salt Water To Soothe Your Inflammation
Gargling (21) with warm salt water is the most common home remedy for a sore throat. My Mom used to advise me to gargle when I had strep throat after taking antibiotics to ease the pain in the throat. It did provide me some relief.
When you’re infected with strep throat, the mucous membrane gets inflamed and swollen. Gargling with salt water will help in decreasing (22) the swelling as the major function of salt is to draw out water.
As water will be drawn out, your swollen cells will shrink and you’ll be relieved from the pain. You may think that this home remedy for strep throat is any old wives’ tale, but it can work wonders in providing relief.
3. Suck On Some OTC Throat Lozenges
You can easily get OTC throat lozenges from the nearby chemist shop. These herbal throat lozenges contain analgesics like honey or lemon that can provide you a soothing effect.
You can also consume lozenges containing anesthetics to treat strep throat.
I’ll advise you not to consume lozenges containing anesthetics for more than 2-3 days. If you think you only have a sore throat and you consume them, it can mask infection due to strep bacteria that requires medical intervention.
You can also buy throat sprays (containing ingredients) similar to the lozenges.
4. Use Cool-Mist Humidifiers To Get Rid Of Strep Throat
Using cool-mist humidifiers moisten the air and can help in relieving dry and painful throat. I’ll advise you to properly clean it on a regular basis as bacteria and molds can thrive in them.
5. Use OTC Pain Medications
If you want to reduce the signs of strep throat (fever and throat pain,) use some of the OTC pain medications.
Acetaminophen is a common medication that is available in the pharmacy shop.
However, you should make sure that you don’t consume it in excess because consuming too much of it can cause liver damage (23).
Ibuprofen (24) is another effective medicine available OTC that can help in relieving pain.
6. Drink Herbal Teas To Soothe Your Painful Throat
You may drink herbal teas containing ingredients such as licorice to relieve your painful, inflamed throat and reduce the signs of strep throat.
According to a 2009 study (25), patients who gargled with licorice felt a relief in their throats.
7. Gargle with Apple Cider Vinegar
Gargling with a diluted solution of Apple cider vinegar is believed to be effective due to its antibacterial properties (26). You can mix 1-3 teaspoons of ACV in 8 oz of water. Use this mixture to gargle 3-4 times a day.
If you’re interested in reading other health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, you can read our previous post.
Valuable Tips To Get Rid Of Strep Throat Fast
1. Drink Lots Of Water
Drinking lots of water will not only prevent dehydration but will also keep your throat moist.
Keeping your throat moist will help in relieving the pain while swallowing food. It is advised that you drink lukewarm water rather than water at room temperature.
2. Sleep For A Few Extra Hours
In addition to your normal eight hours of sleep, you should aim to sleep for a few extra hours during the day.
It’ll give your immune system enough time and resources to combat the streptococcal bacteria with the help of antibiotics. When you’re sleeping, make sure you cover yourself with a blanket.
3. Keep An Eye On Your Eating Habits
You should avoid eating dry, rough and spicy foods because it’ll only irritate your inflamed throat.
When the symptoms of strep throat are at its peak, you’ll not feel like eating.
It is advised that you should eat soft foods like yogurt, soups, soft-cooked eggs, etc. because they’ll not hurt your throat much.
4. Stay Away From Throat Irritants
If you are coming in contact with irritants like air pollution and cigarette smoke, it can worsen your sore throat symptoms.
If you’re a regular smoker, then don’t smoke cigarettes until you recover. You should also avoid secondhand smoke because it can hurt your throat more than before.
5. Stay Isolated For At least A Day After Taking Antibiotics
You may already know that Strep throat is extremely contagious. Your doctor will also advise you to stay at home and avoid going to school, college or work. People who are near you will be at risk of catching the infection.
After 24 hours of taking antibiotics, you’ll no longer be contagious and signs of strep throat will start decreasing.
How To Prevent Strep Throat?
- The best way to prevent strep throat from bothering you is to stay away from the person you know is infected with strep throat.
- When you’re at an infection-prone place, you should wash your hands properly and frequently with soap or hand wash. If possible, try to wash your hands with warm water because people frequently touch their faces or nose and bacteria can easily be transmitted.
- It may sound rude, but don’t let an infected person sneeze or cough without covering his or her mouth and nose with a handkerchief. Normally, the bacteria are transmitted via air passage at this point.
- Your mother may have told you that sharing is caring. It’s true in most cases, but if anyone is infected with strep throat in your family, don’t share anything (27) with them, including glass, plates, towels etc.
- If the infected person is your family member, then you should always keep his/her eating utensils and drinking glasses separate from the rest of the family. Make sure that those utensils are washed properly in hot water.
After reading the article, you must have understood that you can’t ignore the warning signs of strep throat. Once again, I would like to remind you that please don’t ditch your medications before completing the antibiotic course.
If you found our article helpful, then don’t forget to share it with your friends because they might be misinterpreting strep throat as a common sore throat. You can also share your experience of dealing this annoyance in the comments section below.
FAQs Related to Strep Throat
For how long does strep throat last?
RRead the answer here.
What does strep throat look like?
The symptoms or signs of strep throat are the indicators of what strep throat looks like.
How do you get strep throat?
Get your answer here.
Is it possible that I have a sore throat but no fever?
Yes, it’s possible. As there are many possible causes of a sore throat without other symptoms like fever, running nose, and cough.
Throat can get irritated from eating too spicy food or smoking. If you can identify anything like this and eliminate it, the soreness should get better.
Another reason would be acid reflux or heartburn. When the acid in the stomach washes up into the throat, it might cause a mild chemical burn which leads to soreness.
This could be strep throat also, which is characterized by a bad sore throat without accompanying cold symptoms. It is more likely if you also have swollen glands and enlarged tonsils in your neck.
Finally, this can be just a start of common cold. As sometimes, the sore throat will proceed the other symptoms by a few days.
How to cure strep throat?
There are many home remedies to ease out the symptoms of strep throat. And if nothing works, seek the help of your doctor.
How contagious is strep throat?
It is moderately contagious.
What is the incubation period of strep throat?
The incubation period varies from person to person. However, it usually lasts for 1-5 days. Most of the people, during their incubation period, are not even aware that they’re contaminated.
How is strep throat spread?
Here is your answer.
A sore throat on one side, what does that mean?
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve sore throat only on one side then it might be Peritonsillar Abscess or Quinsy.
Can you get strep throat without tonsils?
Yes and here is how:
The main accused in this case is the structure inside your throat. There are 4 main clusters of lymph tissues in your throat – Eustachian tube tonsils, Pharyngeal tonsils, Lingual tonsils and Palatine tonsils.
When any of these tissues are infected by streptococcus bacteria, it can cause strep throat and you’ll have to bear all the pain that goes with it.
Is strep throat dangerous during pregnancy?
No, it’s not dangerous while you’re carrying a baby but you’ll have to do something about the fever. As it is not good for the baby, especially in the first trimester when fetal organs are forming.
So, try to bring down your temperature ASAP.
How to know if I have strep throat?
You’ll get to know about it from the specific signs of strep throat.
Can allergies cause a sore throat?
Of course yes. But treatment to an airborne particle such as pollen driven throat irritation is a little complicated.
Therefore, addressing the exact cause of your allergies can help you get rid of a sore throat once and for all.
Is strep throat airborne?
Read the answer here.
Can wisdom tooth cause a sore throat?
Yes, a wisdom tooth infection along with the pain might also cause a sore throat and swollen lymph glands under the jaw.
Is it normal to have a sore throat after smoking weed?
Yes, as it is the effect of drawing in the hot dry air down your throat. And this air irritates the mucous lining of your throat (because you’re drying it out), thus causing a sore throat.