How Can I Stop Recurring Strep Throat?

Sore Throat Woman. Credit: Media for Medical / Contributor / Getty Images

How Can I Stop Recurring Strep Throat?

Strep throat can be painful, expensive and inconvenient. Some people seem to have an affinity for developing this illness while others may never be infected. Recurring strep throat can often affect the entire family. 

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. Strep throat accounts for only a small portion of sore throats.

If untreated, strep throat can cause complications, such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can lead to painful and inflamed joints, a specific type of rash or heart valve damage.

Strep throat is most common in children, but it affects people of all ages. If you or your child has signs or symptoms of strep throat, see your doctor for prompt testing and treatment.

Symptoms of Strep Throat

Signs and symptoms of strep throat can include:

  • Throat pain that usually comes on quickly
  • Painful swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth (soft or hard palate)
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in your neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children
  • Body aches

It's possible for you or your child to have many of these signs and symptoms but not have strep throat. The cause of these signs and symptoms could be a viral infection or some other illness.

That's why your doctor generally tests specifically for strep throat.

It's also possible for you to be exposed to a person who carries strep but shows no symptoms.

Causes of Strep Throat

The cause of strep throat is bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus.

Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious.

They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks. You can also pick up the bacteria from a doorknob or other surface and transfer them to your nose, mouth or eyes.

To Stop Recurring Strep Throat:

1. Finish all of your antibiotics when you have a strep infection, even if you feel better. If the bacteria is not completely destroyed, it will come back stronger than ever.

2. During the first 24 hours after you start an antibiotic, you are still able to spread strep throat to others. Stay at home, cover your mouth, wash your hands, and do not share drinks, utensils, or lip balm.

3. Throw your toothbrush away 24 hours after you start a course of antibiotics. If you keep the same toothbrush you can reinfect yourself with strep after your antibiotics are finished.

4. Keep toothbrushes separate. Do not use toothbrush holders that allow your family's toothbrushes to touch.

5. Do not share a bed with someone in your family until you have been taking antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

6. Identify strep carriers. This is common clinical practice and can be effective, but it hasn't been proven to work in the literature. A strep carrier has the streptococcus bacteria in their throat but they do not show symptoms. It is possible for these people to have strep for months or even years without knowing it, all the while inadvertently infecting other people. If your family has had a lot of recurring strep throat all family members should be tested for strep throat. Once carriers have been treated with antibiotics they will no longer be contagious.

7. When all else fails talk to your doctor about the option of having your tonsils removed. Only you and your doctor can decide if this is the best treatment option to stop your recurring strep throat.

References:

Medline Plus. Health Tip: Help Prevent the Spread of Strep Throat. Accessed: November 20, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_103591.html

Medline Plus. Strep Throat. Accessed: November 20, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000639.htm

Mayo Clinic. Strep Throat. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/home/ovc-20165963

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