What is Strep Throat?

Sometime in your childhood you were probably diagnosed with strep throat. You likely had a fever, a painful sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. Strep throat is often painful but typically doesn’t last much longer than a week.

Our Utah Ear, Nose and Throat doctors regularly diagnose and treat patients who suffer from strep throat. We’ve written the following articles to help you understand strep throat:

  • What is Strep Throat?
  • What are Strep Throat Symptoms?
  • How is Strep Throat Diagnosed?
  • How is Strep Throat Treated?

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is not a virus. Strep throat is an infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria that settles in the throat and often makes the throat suddenly feel sore. Typically, strep throat infections are more painful that a sore throat caused by a virus. In fact, since most sore throats are NOT caused by strep throat, a particularly painful sore throat is a good indication that you may have strep throat.

Read: What are Strep Throat Symptoms?

Strep Throat is Highly Contagious

Whether your strep throat symptoms are mild or severe, strep throat is contagious. That means everyone who comes into contact with someone who has strep throat is at risk of catching strep throat.

Think of strep throat as a person-to-person illness that is typically transmitted through close contact between someone who has strep throat and another individual. Strep is contained within the saliva or nasal secretions (mucus) of the contagious person. When that person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets fly and people nearby come into close contact with the strep bacteria.

Because strep is shared socially, strep bacteria is often found in settings where many people live and work in close proximity. This may include schools, day care centers, airplanes, public transportation and within the home.

Children and teens between the ages of 5 and 15-years old are the most likely to become infected with strep throat. However, people of all ages are impacted by strep throat. Outbreaks of strep throat increase during the school year and often between late fall and early spring.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Strep Throat is Important

Although strep throat often clears up within a week if left untreated, our ENT doctors recommend you seek diagnosis and treatment for strep because strep can lead to complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.

Call the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 to set an appointment.

Read: What are Strep Throat Symptoms?

Read: How is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

Read: How is Strep Throat Treated?

Strep Throat Symptoms

A sudden, painful sore throat can be a good indication that you have strep throat. Yet a viral infection and not strep bacteria cause most sore throats. Even more surprising, if you have typical cold symptoms like a stuffy and/or runny nose and a cough, you likely do NOT have strep throat.

The most common signs of strep throat may include:

  • Sudden and severe sore throat: With strep throat, sore throat pain emerges quickly and can be very painful.
  • Difficulty swallowing: It’s normal to feel pain while swallowing when you have a sore throat. But strep throat can make it difficult to swallow even liquids.
  • Fever above 101 degrees: The onset of strep throat is often accompanied by a high fever.
  • White or yellow pus on your tonsils and/or redness on the back of throat: Use a flashlight to illuminate the back of your throat. If you see white or yellow spots on a bright red throat, you may have strep throat.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck: Lymph nodes in your neck will often feel tender and sensitive to the touch when you have strep throat.
  • Lack of congestion, cough and upper-respiratory symptoms: A painful sore throat, minus other cold-like symptoms, can be a good indication that you have strep throat.

The last symptom is important to remember: the more cold symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you DON’T have strep throat.

Strep Throat Symptoms Appear 2 to 5 Days After Exposure

Strep throat symptoms do not appear immediately following contact with someone who has a strep infection. Usually, the signs of strep throat appear two to five days following exposure.

Although strep throat usually goes away within three to seven days following exposure without treatment, you remain contagious for two to three weeks.

Read that again: even though your strep throat symptoms will disappear within a week of infection, unless you are treated with antibiotics, you remain contagious for 14 to 21 days afterwards. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment of strep throat with antibiotics.

Read: How Does the ENT Center Diagnose Strep Throat?

The good news is that most patients are no longer contagious (or less contagious) within 24 hours of starting to use antibiotics to fight strep throat.

Contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center for Strep Throat Questions

Strep throat is painful and can become serious if left untreated. If you suspect you may have strep throat, contact our ENT doctors in Utah at 801-328-2522 for an appointment.

Read: How the ENT Center Treats Strep Throat

Read: What is Strep Throat?

Read: 5 Tips to Avoid Strep Throat

Strep Throat Diagnosis

There are two ways to diagnose strep throat: a clinical exam and a laboratory test. We’ll cover both options here so you can understand what to expect when you visit an ear, nose and throat doctor.

Our Ear, Nose and Throat center physicians typically perform both the clinical exam and a laboratory test to ensure we accurately diagnose strep throat.

Clinical Strep Throat Exam

A clinical exam begins by looking for common strep throat symptoms such as:

  • A severe sore throat
  • Fever above 101 degrees
  • White or yellow pus on your tonsils and/or redness on the back of your throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Absence of traditional cold symptoms such as cough, congestion or a runny nose

Read: Common strep throat symptoms

Your ENT doctor will typically use a tongue depressor to ensure your throat and tonsils are clearly visible. We’ll also consider the patient’s age—strep throat is most common in patients between the ages of 5 and 15 years old—and the time of year since strep throat infections are more common between late fall and early spring.

Laboratory Strep Throat Tests

If indications for strep throat appear likely following the clinical exam, your ENT doctor will order a laboratory test to confirm a strep infection. The doctor or physician’s assistant will quickly and gently swab the back of your throat and order a rapid strep test. We may also order a throat culture.

  • Rapid Strep Test: The rapid stress test is also known as a rapid antigen detection test. The good news is that the Ear, Nose and Throat Center can confirm a strep throat infection within a few minutes using the rapid stress test.
  • Throat Culture: While the rapid stress test regularly identifies strep throat, it may not detect all cases of strep throat.  In some instances, we may choose to order a throat culture so we can more thoroughly analyze your condition. The downside to a throat culture is that results may not be available for a few days, which is why we typically use the rapid stress test. Your doctor will consider your symptoms following an exam and recommend the appropriate tests to confirm diagnosis.

Next Step: Strep Throat Treatment

Once your ENT physician has completed the exam and ordered the appropriate tests that confirm strep throat, we will prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat. The good news is that you will no longer be infectious within 24 hours of starting antibiotic treatment and patients start to feel better quickly.

If you have questions about strep throat, please contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 to set an appointment with ENT doctors in Salt Lake City, Park City and Draper, Utah.

Read: How is Strep Throat Treated?

Read: What is Strep Throat?

Read: What are Strep Throat Symptoms?

Read: 5 Tips to Prevent Strep Throat

Ear Nose and Throat Surgery Center Testimonials

Having surgery is stressful. We understand you may be nervous about an upcoming procedure and we want you to know that the entire team at the Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery Center is committed to ensuring your comfort and a successful outcome.

Our patients rave about the quality of care and compassion at the surgery center and we’re pleased to share their testimonials about the center and our team.

Our Doctors

  • Dr. Dahl is amazing! He was great at answering all my questions even after surgery and on a Sunday night!
  • Dr. Johnson and Dr. Sharma are amazing. So happy I had them to do my anesthesia and surgery.
  • Dr. Bennett is the BEST!
  • Every person there was extremely caring and kind. Everything was wonderful. Dr. Tagge did an amazing job and recovery went perfect. I was so impressed with the entire experience.

Our Staff

  • It was convenient, easy, and the staff was friendly.
  • Very attentive + friendly staff. They seemed genuinely interested in us and helpful at every step.
  • Staff was cheerful and upbeat. The nurse in the operating room helped me relax by chatting with me before anesthesia took effect. The recovery nurse was kind and patient. I enjoyed working with all of you.
  • Pam is excellent. Michelle is amazing. The Recovery Nurse was too sweet for words!
  • Very friendly. Staff worked hard to help me get my tonsils out on short notice.

Our Personal Approach

  • The thing I most liked about the facility was the kindness they showed my son as he was waking up. They were very patient to let him get readjusted. I was pleased with the entire staff and I don’t think it could have gone any better.
  • The thing I liked most about the facility is the size—small and intimate. Everyone was sweet and friendly and positive and informative.
  • Amazing staff! The fact that the nurses sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to my son to soothe him touched me.
  • Everyone was so sweet and caring to our baby.
  • They were all friendly, caring and professional.

Our Clean, Professional Surgery Center

  • Very professional in every way. Everyone is just great. All medical practices should run this way.
  • Facility was clean. Staff was friendly and efficient.
  • Good service, organized, efficient, well run by sharp people.
  • Efficient, helpful, kind and a great facility. Everyone was extremely caring, patient and knowledgeable. Thank you.

Regular, Ongoing Communication

  • What I liked best was the friendliness, privacy and thorough explanations. The prep nurses were awesome- very caring and the anesthesiologist was very warm and confident, as well as the doctor.
  • Everyone was very communicative, answered questions and showed concern for the patient. Everyone was great. Pam was exceptionally friendly and helped put our daughter at ease.
  • They are great with kids and explain everything in detail that we need to know.
  • They were great to answer all our questions.
Pediatrician administers vaccination to child

Got Allergies and Don’t Like Shots?

Some people just don’t like shots, even if they might help them with severe allergies. Well, now there is another way to receive the relief allergy shots may give you without the needles.

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an alternative way to treat allergies without injections. An allergist gives a patient small doses of an allergen under the tongue to boost tolerance to the substance and reduce symptoms. According to a 2009 World Allergy Organization (WAO) paper, SLIT is widely accepted and used in European, South American, and Asian countries as well as in Australia and is gaining interest from allergists in the United States, including those at the ENT Center of Utah.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, an allergist must first use allergy testing to confirm the patients sensitivities. Once this is determined, an allergen extract is prepared in drop form and the patient is directed to keep it under the tongue for two minutes and then swallow it. The process is repeated daily with an average of three-to-five year commitment.

Is Sublingual Immunotherapy Effective and Safe?

Most clinical trials and surveys published over at least 20 years show that SLIT is relatively safe and effective for the treatment of rhinitis and asthma caused by allergies. In addition, it might prove an effective therapy for children with mild atopic dermatitis (eczema) and asthma. Side effects among both children and adults are usually local and mild, most often occur early in treatment, and include itching in the mouth or stomach problems.

Learn more about this therapy and get relief by consulting with an allergist at the ENT Center of Utah.

5 Tips to Prevent Strep Throat

There is no vaccine to prevent strep throat. This means the best protection is prevention and that includes ensuring that you do everything you can to avoid contact with Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, specifically Streptococcus pyogenes. That’s the bacterium that causes strep throat.

Read: What is Strep Throat?

If you are diagnosed with strep throat, it’s up to you to do your part to help ensure you don’t spread the infection to others. We’ve included five tips to help avoid strep throat.

1. Wash Your Hands Often

Good hand-washing practices will help you avoid strep and plenty of other infectious viruses. Every day your hands touch doorknobs, computer keyboards and mice, phones, car keys, countertops, shopping carts and more. That’s natural and normal. Simply remember that if you’re touching all of these items on a regular basis, it’s possible that someone who has strep throat, a cold virus or many other viruses that can make you sick is also touching those items daily.

We’re not recommending you become a germaphobe who is afraid to go outside or touch common items. Just use your good sense and wash your hands regularly throughout the day.

For instance, it’s a good practice to wash your hands whenever you return home from the grocery store since shopping carts regularly test for high levels for everything from fecal bacteria to E. Coli. Hand sanitizer is also a good idea to use to quickly disinfect your hands.

2. Avoid Touching Your Eyes or Mouth with Your Hands

Tip number two naturally follows tip number one for good reason. If your hands come into contact with infectious viruses, the last thing you want to do is touch your eyes, mouth or nose with dirty hands. That’s because your eyes, nose and mouth are often an ideal gateway for a virus to enter your immune system. Washing your hands often and ensuring you don’t rub your eyes or place fingers in your mouth is a great way to prevent strep throat and other infections from making you sick.

3. Don’t Share Food, Drinks or Towels with a Sick Person

This one is a no-brainer; if someone is sick, don’t take a bite of their food or drink from their cup. While that logic makes perfect sense, you would be surprised how many people share food or utensils with someone who has already been diagnosed with strep throat or exhibits strep throat symptoms.

The same advice applies to clothes, towels and pillowcases. If someone is sick, you want to avoid or minimize exposure to any item where his or her saliva or mucus may be lying in wait. Obviously, treat someone suffering with respect but be smart about how you demonstrate that respect or risk catching strep throat yourself, which isn’t particularly helpful to anyone.

Read: What are Strep Throat Symptoms?

4. Cover Your Nose and Mouth Whenever You Cough or Sneeze

This tip applies to people whether or not they have an infectious virus. It’s simply polite to shield those around you from potentially infectious airborne droplets.

If you have strep throat, don’t forget to wash your hands after every sneeze and cough, too. Preventing the airborne droplets from spreading doesn’t do much good if you immediately follow a sneeze by touching a doorknob or pushing a shopping cart with dirty hands. You’re making it easy for the virus to spread to others if you don’t exercise some diligence and self-control.

5. Get Enough Rest and Eat Healthy Foods

People today rarely get enough sleep. Unfortunately, overwork and stress can weaken your body’s immune system and make it difficult to fight viral infections. When your immune system is weak, strep throat has an easier time taking up residence within your body and making you sick.

If you want to prevent strep throat, do your best to keep regular eating and sleeping habits—particularly in the winter months when strep infections increase. You’ll feel better overall and avoid the pain and hassle of a strep throat infection.

Contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center

Strep throat can become a serious condition. Our Ear, Nose and Throat doctors in Salt Lake City, Draper and Park City, Utah can diagnose and treat strep throat. Call 801-328-2522 to set an appointment with our our Utah ear, nose and throat doctors.