Along with cooler temperatures and changing leaves, complaints of sore throats, trouble swallowing and fever seem to mark the start of the Fall season.
Parents sending children back to school brace themselves for the annual first cold symptoms that seemingly appear within weeks of the start of classes. While a sore throat can be due to allergens, bacteria or a virus, strep throat is a common illness in children, who are more likely to be infected than adults.
Strep throat is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria and is treated with antibiotics. Group A strep is spread through contact with droplets from an infected person. Droplets spread through coughing and sneezing or sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils. Washing hands often and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing is the best practice for prevention.
Other symptoms of strep throat include fever of 101 or higher, swollen neck lymph nodes, inflamed tonsil, body aches or rashes, trouble eating and headache. White patches may partially cover swollen tonsils, and small red spots may be visible on the roof of the mouth. A throat culture will confirm the presence of group A strep bacteria.
According to Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease, care for those diagnosed with strep throat includes soft foods, acetaminophen for pain and discomfort, rest, fluids, and staying home from school or work for at least 24 hours after beginning any prescribed medication. Possible complications of strep throat include enlarged tonsils, sinus infections and rheumatic fever which is a rare inflammatory disorder that can affect skin, joints and the heart.