Dec. 29, 2008 -- Question: What is strep throat, what are the symptoms, and how is it treated?
Answer: Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by group A streptococcus. That bacteria can infect the throat, and what's more important about that infection is that it can go beyond the throat. Many times, weeks or months later, you can have a problem with heart or damage to the kidneys. And that's why it's so important that we identify strep throat and then treat it properly.
How do you find out whether you have strep throat? Well, oftentimes a normal infection will give you a sore throat for a few days, running nose, watery eyes -- your classic cold symptoms. The strep throat, however, will be longer in duration. It's not going to clear up as easily on its own. It's going to be lasting more than three days. You may have a fever that lasts more than three days. Oftentimes you'll get enlarged lymph nodes in the front of your neck which are sore. You may get an upset stomach, nausea.
Oftentimes children, particularly, will get a headache. And many times you'll see a rash, a fine lacey type of rash over the body. All those things can be signs of strep throat.
Also when you look in the throat itself, many times we'll see little dots of red that are on the soft or hard palate, the upper part of the mouth, and that oftentimes is strep throat. It almost looks like a strawberry there. Many times people will get white patches on the back of the throat. That may or may not be strep, but certainly if you get a lot of white patches you should be seen.
So you think you have a strep throat, you go into the doc, the doc will do a rapid strep test to identify whether you really have a strep throat or not. If that's positive, he or she then is going to treat you. Usually it's going to be with an antibiotic such as a penicillin or an amoxicillin. Sometimes, if you're allergic to the penicillins, it will be an erythromycin-type antibiotic. But basically you'll be given an antibiotic and you'll usually be told with mostly antibiotics to finish it all. And that would usually be a 10-day course, except for one antibiotic is five days. But usually it's going to be a 10-day course.
Even though you may be feeling better in a few days, finish the antibiotic because if you don't, you can suffer relapse, or suffer those complications I talked about in the beginning to the heart or to the kidneys. So it's important to identify the strep, looking for symptoms that are not your usual cold, get to the doctor and then get proper treatment.