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Is it Strep Throat?

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Strep throat is a common bacterial infection that typically affects children ages five to 10, although anybody can have strep throat. Other people are carriers of the strep bacteria, but do not show any symptoms.

What is Strep Throat?

The most obvious sign of strep throat is a sore throat, and white or yellow spots can often be seen in the back of the throat. Those affected may also have a fever, loss of appetite, or headache. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, which the body will defend on its own without antibiotics. A sore throat which worsens or persists should be checked by a doctor.

Occasionally, strep will show up in other areas of the body as well. Strep (and usually staph) can live in the nose and cause pain and bleeding inside the nose.

Is it Strep?

The only way to know for sure if someone is infected with the streptococcus bacteria is to have a test done in a doctor's office. A doctor who suspects strep will usually take two swabs of the throat, or infected area. He will use these for:

  • a rapid strep test done in his office. Results usually are ready in about 15 minutes.
  • a longer test, if the rapid test is negative. This test, performed in a lab, takes one to two days before results come back.

How Accurate is the Rapid Strep Test?

If the rapid strep test comes back positive, a patient knows that he has strep. A false negative occurs in up to a third of the rapid tests, according to kidshealth website, meaning that the patient has strep but the rapid test showed a negative result. This is why the second culture is often sent off for the longer test, and doctors will call when they get the result of that test.

Treatment of Strep

Antibiotics are usually prescribed for patients who have a positive strep test, which will take care of the strep as well as eliminate the chance of further problems from the infection, such as meningitis or pneumonia. It is important for patients to finish the entire course of antibiotics even if they are feeling better before they are done with the antibiotics.

Strep throat is contagious, so patients should avoid contact with an infected person. As with all viral and bacterial infections, frequent hand-washing can help prevent the spread of strep throat.

Streptococcus infections are a nuisance, but with a simple test, and a doctor's diagnosis, a patient will be feeling better following a short course of treatment.

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