A Simple Guide to Strep Throat

I asked my students in Summer 2013 to write a short report on an illness or disease. Received a lot of great submissions. One of them, written by Marielle C., is reproduced below with permission:

This paper is to inform students, who do not have any kind of scientific background, about the causes, treatments, and outcomes of the disease called strep throat. The information given throughout this paper is only from honest and reliable resources that explain the disease in full detail. Some of the information includes the bacteria that cause strep throat, Group A Streptococcus. These bacteria are what give the disease its name. Useful information includes the difference between strep throat and a sore throat. Although both have the same effects, strep throat has more symptoms to look out for and needs immediate treatment. The websites used for information throughout this paper include symptoms and the age groups that are most diagnosed with strep throat. In order to be diagnosed with strep throat, a doctor will take a strep test, and maybe a throat culture if the tests prove to be inaccurate. However, these tests do not require surgery or special instruction or direction of the sort. Further explanation and research shows that strep throat is not fatal and can be cured with antibiotics.

Keywords: strep throat, symptoms, group A Streptococcus, strep test, throat culture, antibiotics

A Simple Guide to Strep Throat
Strep Throat is a highly infectious disease caused by Group A Streptococcus. There are many different kinds of strep bacteria, some more serious than others, however, strep throat is the most common disease of the kind. It is the most common throat infection in America and is commonly spread throughout a household when one member becomes sick with the disease.

Being an airborne disease, it can be passed when one person passes the bacteria into the air through coughing or breathing, and another will inhale the bacteria and become infected. The bacteria can also be spread through nasal or salivary secretions, thus claiming strep throat as a contagious infection. One can develop this disease when making contact with someone who already has these bacteria. The bacterial infection occurs in the throat and the tonsils. The throat becomes irritated and inflamed, causing an abrupt, severe sore throat—worse than the average person’s sore throat. The difference between a sore throat and strep throat is the type of infection each is. A sore throat is a viral infection, meaning that a virus causes the throat to hurt and ultimately become sore. Since strep throat is caused by specific bacteria, it is a bacterial infection and is also accompanied by several other symptoms more severe than just pain in the throat.
First off, the sever pain in the throat means more than just soreness or aching; the pain is equivalent to swallowing knives down one’s throat. This sharp pain is due to red and swollen tonsils with white patches or streaks of pus. As gruesome as it sounds, it is one of the most distinguishable symptoms of strep throat. An outside symptom of strep throat is having a fever of 101°F, caused by the bacterial infection. Headaches and body aches are also outside symptoms, along with swollen lymph nodes in the neck and tiny red spots on the soft or hard palate—the area of the back of the roof of the mouth. (cdc.gov) When any of these symptoms are recognized, it is important to visit the doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

Once at the doctor, he/she will do a physical exam, ask about the symptoms and past health, and do a rapid strep test—a quick swab of the throat—to diagnose strep throat. Sometimes another test, called a throat culture, is also needed. (Webmd.com) If the rapid strep test is negative, it means there is no strep throat, but if the doctor thinks that the symptoms say otherwise, he/she may do a throat culture to be safe. This is because rapid strep tests are not always accurate. To do a throat culture, the doctor will swab a sample of cells from the back of the throat. The sample will go into a special cup, called a culture, where the strep bacteria can grow over time. If strep bacteria grow, the doctor knows that strep throat is present. If the rapid strep test is positive and says that strep throat is present, then there is no need to do the throat culture. After all is done and results are positive that strep throat is present, the doctor will give treatment to cure this disease.

Strep throat requires antibiotics to be cured and treated, while sore throats do not require antibiotics unless strep bacteria are present. Antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalexin, or amoxicillin are used to treat strep throat first. (webmd.com) The antibiotics are taken for at least ten days, although most symptoms usually disappear after the first few days. Antibiotics shorten the time one can spread the disease to others and lower the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. No surgery or other drugs are necessary to treat strep throat. With the use of antibiotics for the allotted time prescribed, the bacteria will die out and the disease will be cured. Ultimately, strep throat, although contagious, is not fatal and therefore those diagnosed with the disease do survive when properly treated.



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