How Is Strep Throat Spread?

Strep throat is an infection of the tonsils and/or throat caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep), and streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious. If you are infected with it, you may have the symptoms include sore throat, fever, and trouble swallowing. Children may also experience stomach pain, vomiting, and headache. Other signs include white dots on the tonsils, and/or redness in the throat.

How Is Strep Throat Spread?

Group A strep (GAS) throat is more commonly spread directly by sick people, person-to-person.

  • When someone infected with GAS coughs, sneezes, or breathes, the strep bacteria are released into the air and are inhaled by others.
  • It can also be spread through contact with infected sores or wounds on the skin, and it’s possible to spread these bacteria by eating from the same plate or drinking from the same glass with someone who is infected.
  • What’s more, in household environment and close living environment (such as classroom), the risk of being infected is higher, approximately 40.

The bacteria can also be spread by contacting with people without any symptoms, but carry the strep bacteria on their skin or in their throat. However, people who have the strep bacteria and don’t have symptoms are less contagious. Antibiotic is useful for the infected person, and treatment for more than 24 hours usually prevents the spread of the strep bacteria to other people.

How to Prevent It from Spreading

  • Wash your hands frequently when spending time at school, and in public places.
  • Keep an anti-bacterial or alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy, and use it often.
  • Do not share or allow your children to share eating and drinking utensils.
  • Never share or allow your children to share personal items such as bath towels, washcloths or hand towels.
  • Get plenty of sleep, and encourage your body's natural defenses with a good diet, and regular exercise.
  • Sanitize the surfaces of your home such as, doorknobs, counter-tops, and any other hard surfaces that were touched by a contaminated person, with an appropriate antiseptic cleaner.
  • Humidify your house and clean humidifiers on a regular basis. Humidity in the air helps keep the mucous membranes moist and resistant to bacteria.
  • Discontinue smoking, and avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. Smoking can irritate the throat and could make you more likely to get infected.

Symptoms You'll Have If You're Infected

After knowing ‘how is strep throat spread?’ you should also learn the signs of getting infected.

Strep throat isn’t the worst infection you can develop, but you’ll definitely know the difference between a regular sore throat, and the strep version. Signs and symptoms of strep throat might include:

  • Sudden and severe sore throat without other cold symptoms such as coughing, or sneezing
  • Red and inflamed tonsils, sometimes with white spots on them
  • Bright red or dark red spots in the back area on the roof of the mouth near the throat
  • Pain or trouble with swallowing
  • Tender and swollen lymph glands in your neck
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Skin rash
  • Nausea or vomiting

It's possible for people to have many of these signs and symptoms, and not have strep throat. These signs and symptoms could also be a viral infection or some other illness.

How to Address the Discomforts

1.    Antibiotics

If you get strep throat, your physician will likely prescribe an oral antibiotic. Antibiotics can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, avoid any complications, and lower the risk that the infection will spread to others. Usually 24 hours after treatment beginning, people taking an antibiotic will not have a fever, and feel well enough, can return to school or work, because they will no longer be contagious. However, stopping the medication early could lead to recurrences and serious complications, such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.

2.    Symptom Reliever

To reduce fever and throat pain, try over-the-counter pain relievers from your local pharmacy such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Avoid using aspirin with children and teenagers because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.

Try gargling with warm salt water to help reduce swelling and purchase some throat lozenges to relieve the discomfort and pain. Drink plenty of fluids, because fluids can help thin secretions and soothe an irritated throat.

When to See a Doctor

Knowing ‘how is strep throat spread?’ is important, it is more vital to realize when to seek medical help as strep throat, though not very dangerous, could lead to more serious complications.

One of the complications is that strep bacteria may spread, causing infection in sinuses, tonsils, skin and blood. Moreover, strep infection may lead to inflammatory illnesses, including inflammation of the kidney (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis); scarlet fever, a streptococcal infection characterized by a prominent rash; rheumatic fever, a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin.

Call your health care provider if you or your children have any of these signs and symptoms:

  • A fever more than 101 F (38.3 C) in children or fever that lasts longer than 2 days
  • A sore throat and/or a rash
  • A sore throat that lasts longer than 48 hours
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • A sore throat along with tender, swollen lymph glands
  • If strep has already been diagnosed, and there is a lack of improvement after taking antibiotics for 2 days
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