Haims: Strep throat — the early signs
If COVID and RSV weren’t enough, there is now a high level of concern for strep throat. Although strep throat can occur at any time of the year, here in Colorado, cases occur quite frequently during the wintertime. Though the illness, in general, has milder effects, recently many people, specifically children, are experiencing greater severity.
While rare, the group A strep infection can cause hospitalization. Medical providers are unsure as to why there is a difference this year as compared to past years. There may be two factors. First, during the COVID pandemic, many people masked and had taken other precautions, which decreased exposure and now may have led to lower immunities. Second, it is possible that viruses and bacteria have evolved. It could be both.
A sore throat may be caused by bacteria, viruses and even allergies. Left untreated, strep throat can lead to severe diseases such as sepsis, kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.
Some of the most common signs of strep throat:
- Red, sore throat – especially when onset occurs quickly
- Persistent high prolonged fevers
- White spots on back of throat, tonsils or tongue
- Swollen, tender neck glands
- Muscle aches
- Swallowing issues
Strep is contagious
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Strep throat is highly contagious. Found in the nose and throat, strep germs are easily spread when talking, coughing, sneezing, sharing food and drinks, and touching surfaces where airborne droplets have landed.
Wiping down countertops, counter knobs, doorknobs, TV remotes, and the tissue box is always a good way to minimize infection spread. Don’t forget that the tissue box a sick person uses may also spread infection. It may also be a good idea to throw out the sick person’s toothbrush and wash their pillowcase(s) and bed linen.
People who have been infected with strep throat can be contagious for up to a few days or even weeks before showing symptoms. Thus, someone who has not gotten sick yet can easily and unknowingly spread the disease. Once antibiotics have begun, strep throat is usually no longer contagious.
Preventing the spread of strep throat
Preventing the spread parallels all the precautions we were told to do during the COVID pandemic. Foremostly, this includes keeping your environment clean, staying home from work or school, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and not sharing personal items like food and utensils. Additionally, while you may not be able to help it, try keeping your distance from people. Keep your immune system healthy by taking care of your body by getting regular sleep, exercise and managing stress (if possible).
Strep throat can go away on its own without antibiotic treatment. Typically, it goes away within three to seven days. Early diagnosis of strep and treatment with either antibiotics or natural treatments can reduce further spread of the disease and prevent risk of complications.
Since strep is a bacterial infection, it does require antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin. However, there are some natural treatments that may assist in shortening the duration of symptoms and help prevent the development of complications.
Natural infection fighters like elderberry and echinacea are very high in antioxidants, which help to naturally defend the body against oxidative stress. They are also high in anti-inflammatory properties, which help to prevent and reduce inflammation that can cause major harm within the body. While less common, marshmallow root, osha, and ginger root tea are believed to also help treat coughs and bacterial infections.
The recent rise in strep and RSV is undeniable. While the cause may be subject of question, it is plausible that the rise may be due in part to more social mixing, and strains have become stronger and more harmful. Regardless of reason, stay healthy, wash your hands and should you fall ill, be courteous to others by keeping your distance.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.