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

Strep Throat Treatment

strep throat photo


If your symptoms and diagnosis confirm strep throat, it’s time for treatment. With the results of the rapid stress test in hand, your ENT doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat.

We strongly encourage the use of antibiotics for two reasons:

  1. Antibiotics work quickly: Patients are no longer contagious within 24 hours from the time you begin taking antibiotics. That means you can get on with your life by returning to work or school and not worry about infecting others with strep throat.
  2. Antibiotics reduce the severity of strep throat symptoms and risk of complications: Strep throat is painful and the sooner your symptoms disappear, the better you feel. You should expect to feel better quickly, usually within 24 to 36 hours after you start taking antibiotics.

Common Strep Throat Antibiotics

If you or a child is diagnose with strep throat, your doctor will commonly prescribe oral antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin in tablet or liquid form. Both antibiotics are effective in curing strep throat. However, your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics based on the strep throat diagnosis and the unique needs of the patient.

It’s also important to complete the entire prescription even if you begin to feel better quickly. Always follow the prescription plan as prescribed by your doctor.

If you don’t begin to feel better within 48 hours of using the prescribed antibiotics, call the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522.

Ways to Reduce Strep Throat Pain

You can reduce sore throat pain by using throat lozenges and gargling with warm salt water. If bad enough, liquid narcotic medicine may be prescribed. However, if the pain lingers and is particularly strong, you may also choose to reduce sore throat pain and reduce fever by using a variety of over-the-counter medications including ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Your doctor and/or pharmacist will also provide directions for the correct dosage of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines. With all medicines, be sure to read and follow the directions on the label and contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 with questions.

  • Ibuprofen products include Advil, Children’s Advil/Motrin, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever etc. Various store brand and generic versions of ibuprofen are also available.
  • Acetaminophen products include Tylenol and Children’s Tylenol. Like ibuprofen, generic versions of acetaminophen are available at most drug stores and are less expensive than the brand name products.

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

While strep throat can be painful, it can also be cured quickly. If you suspect you have strep throat symptoms, our ENT doctors in Salt Lake City, Draper and Park City, Utah can quickly diagnose and treat strep throat. Call 801-328-2522 to set an appointment.

Vocal cord lesions screaming boy

Does Your Child Scream So Much That It’s Unhealthy?

Parents probably all agree that their kids scream too much. It’s a child’s warning system, can be an expression or fear or glee and a way to garner attention. Besides the impact on the hearer’s eardrums, is there a point where a screamer can damage vocal chords? The answer is, unfortunately, yes. On the bright side, it’s usually a temporary condition.

Screamers, or singers for that matter, may develop vocal cord lesions, which refer to a group of noncancerous, abnormal growths within or along the covering of the vocal cord. Vocal cord lesions are one of the most common causes of voice problems and are generally seen in three forms: nodules, polyps, and cysts.

Vocal cord nodules are also known as “calluses of the vocal fold.” They appear on both sides of the vocal cords, typically at the midpoint, and directly face each other. Like other calluses, these lesions often diminish or disappear when overuse of the area is stopped.

A vocal cord polyp typically occurs only on one side of the vocal cord and can occur in a variety of shapes and sizes. Depending upon the nature of the polyp, it can cause a wide range of voice disturbances.

A vocal cord cyst is a firm mass of tissue contained within a membrane. The cyst can be located near the surface of the vocal cord or deeper, near the ligament of the vocal cord. As with vocal cord polyps and nodules, the size and location of vocal cord cysts affect the degree of disruption of vocal cord vibration and subsequently the severity of hoarseness or other voice problem.

Surgery followed by voice therapy is the most commonly recommended treatment for vocal cord cysts that significantly alter and/or limit voice. Doctors at the ENT Center of Utah can help determine what procedures are right for you.

A reactive vocal cord lesion is a mass located opposite an existing vocal cord lesion, such as a vocal cord cyst or polyp. This type of lesion is thought to develop from trauma or repeated injury caused by the lesion on the opposite vocal cord. A reactive vocal cord lesion will usually decrease or disappear with voice rest and therapy.

The exact cause or causes of benign vocal cord lesions is not known. Lesions are thought to arise following “heavy” or traumatic use of the voice, including voice misuse such as speaking in an improper pitch, speaking excessively, screaming or yelling, or using the voice excessively while sick.

A change in voice quality and persistent hoarseness are often the first warning signs of a vocal cord lesion. Other symptoms can include:

  • Vocal fatigue
  • Unreliable voice
  • Delayed voice initiation
  • Low, gravelly voice
  • Low pitch
  • Voice breaks in first passages of sentences
  • Airy or breathy voice
  • Inability to sing in high, soft voice
  • Increased effort to speak or sing
  • Hoarse and rough voice quality
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Extra force needed for voice

The most common treatment options for benign vocal cord lesions include: voice rest, voice therapy, singing voice therapy, and phonomicrosurgery, a type of surgery involving the use of microsurgical techniques and instruments to treat abnormalities on the vocal cord.

Treatment options can vary according to the degree of voice limitation and the exact voice demands of the patient. For example, if a professional singer develops benign vocal cord lesions and undergoes voice therapy, which improves speaking but not singing voice, then surgery might be considered to restore singing voice.

In the end, most of us just need to rest the vocal cords and we’ll all feel better. Speech therapy is usually the next choice for treatment. Even if surgery is required, the specialists at the ENT Center of Utah can diagnose and provide lasting solutions for the issue. To schedule an appointment, please call (801) 328-2522. 

throat disorders

Ever Feel like Something Is Stuck in Your Throat?

Do you ever feel like something is stuck in your throat? At one time or another, many of us experience an itchiness or ‘blockage’ right behind the tongue or tonsils. This feeling may drive us mad or be a mild irritant. It may only happen once in a while, while others experience these symptoms nearly everyday. Sometimes, we feel like these throat irritants when we feel other symptoms, which may include pressure in the chest, excess saliva, hoarseness, loss of appetite, or weight loss.

For most people who experience occasional difficulties swallowing, it’s probably not a big deal. However, persistent difficulties should motivate you to seek medical attention at a highly regarded ear, nose and throat center, such as the ENT Center of Utah. The main reasons we have difficulty swallowing, which is called dysphagia, are because of an actual blockage or it could be due to muscle and/or nerve issues.

After examination, doctors may suggest these one of these therapies:

Antibiotics for throat infections like tonsillitis

Stomach acid reduction medications for symptoms caused by GERD and esophagitis

Diet restrictions to help you avoid food that can cause allergic reactions or intolerances, such as coffee, sour foods, alcoholic drinks, and spicy foods.

Minor surgery or procedure to remove objects that are actually stuck in the throat

Surgery and radiotherapy may be necessary to remove a tumor inside or around the throat

Behavioral therapy is good for some who just need to chew food carefully and eat slowly

Of course, early detection and effective treatment of the underlying cause behind throat issues can lower your risk of more serious problems. Contact us if your symptoms persist for more than one week. But if you ever have sudden difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately as it might be life threatening.

Utah pediatrician for tonsils

Why Do Kids Gain Weight after Tonsil Removal? Should You Worry?

Kids can gain weight after they have their tonsils out. Parents have noticed that for years. But it is something to worry about if your child is already overweight?

Weight gain in children after they have their tonsils removed (adenotonsillectomy) occurs primarily in children who are smaller and younger at the time of the surgery, and weight gain was not linked with increased rates of obesity.

About 500,000 children in the United States have their tonsils removed each year. The childhood obesity rate prompted reevaluation of the question of weight gain after adenotonsillectomy.

The authors reviewed medical records and the final study consisted of 815 patients (ages 18 years and younger) who underwent adenotonsillectomy from 2007 through October 2012.

The greatest increases in weight were seen in children who were smaller (in the 1 st through 60 th percentiles for weight) and who were younger than 4 years at the time of surgery. Children older than 8 years gained the least weight. An increase in weight was not seen in children who were heavier (above the 80 th percentile in weight) before surgery. At 18 months after surgery, weight percentiles in the study population increased by an average of 6.3 percentile points. Body mass index percentiles increased by an average 8 percentile points. Smaller children had larger increases in BMI percentile but larger children did not.

“Despite the finding that many children gain weight and have higher BMIs after tonsillectomy, in our study, the proportion of children who were obese (BMI >95 th percentile) before surgery (14.5 percent) remained statistically unchanged after surgery (16.3 percent). On the basis of this work, adenotonsillectomy does not correlate with increased rates of childhood obesity.”

So kids may gain weight after removal of their tonsils, but it is usually the kids who need to pack on a few pounds anyway. It usually won’t make extra-large children even bigger.

Source: JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. “Weight gain in children occurs after tonsil removal, not linked to obesity.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 17 Apr. 2014. 

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flu shot in woman's arm

5 Reasons to Get a Flu Shot Every Year

Nearly all of us have experienced flu symptoms—a cough and sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue, fever, body aches and more.

Frankly, the flu feels awful.

A flu shot can help prevent you from experiencing the flu this winter. But surprisingly low numbers of Americans line up for their flu shots each year. In fact, according the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 42 percent of Americans received a flu shot during the 2011-2012 flu season.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu shot.

We see hundreds of people suffering from the flu in our Salt Lake City and Draper offices each month during flu season—typically fall through early spring each year. So we’re offering 5 reasons why we recommend our patients get a flu shot each year.

Reason #1: You Can’t Get the Flu from a Flu Shot

People ask us this question all the time: “Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?” The short answer is “No.”

A flu vaccine injection contains only viral proteins but no live flu virus. While some people experience pain in the arm where they received the flu shot, and may develop a low-grade fever, the shot has not given them a case of the flu. They are simply experiencing a short-term reaction to the flu vaccine.

A flu shot does not make you contagious, either. So someone who receives the vaccine will not transmit the flu to family members or co-workers.

Reason #2: The Flu Vaccine is Safe for Pregnant Women and Young Children

Many people wrongly believe that the flu vaccine is not safe for pregnant women or small children over 6 months of age. That’s a myth.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women should be vaccinated against the flu. The organization states, “No study to date has shown an adverse consequence of inactivated influenza vaccine in pregnant women or their offspring.” (click for source)

Reason #3: The Flu Strain Changes Each Year

A flu shot isn’t a one-time vaccination; you need to renew your shot each year to improve your immunity. For instance, a flu shot in the fall won’t protect you from the flu the following fall. That’s because your immunity decreases throughout the year.

What’s more, the flu virus strains that circulate mutate and evolve each year. That means that while your flu shot may have protected you from specific flu strains last year, new strains are in the mix this year. An annual flu shot is the best way to protect you from constantly changing strains of the flu virus.

Reason #4: The Flu Kills

Many people wrongly assume that the flu is inconvenient but rarely serious or deadly.

The CDC reports that between 3,000 and 50,000 people in the United States die of the flu each year. That’s a sobering statistic and you don’t want to count yourself in that group.

Perhaps more surprising, more than 200,000 people are admitted to hospitals each flu season and between 15 million and 60 million cases of the flu are reported annually.

A flu shot is a smart way to protect yourself and improve your odds that you won’t get a case of the flu.

Reason #5: Flu Shots are Inexpensive and Reduce Health Care Costs

Flu shots are widely available at health care clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies and even many offices. Flu shots are relatively inexpensive—often $25 or less. That’s a small price to pay in comparison to missing multiple days of work with a case of the flu.

Getting a flu shot also helps you do your part to reduce health care costs. For instance, most people will pay more than $25 to visit a health care clinic and much more if you are admitted to an emergency room with flu symptoms.

A flu shot (or flu spray if you’re afraid of needles) is an affordable and convenient way to protect your health and the health of others.

See: Salt Lake City Flu Shot Locations

Get Your Flu Shot Each Year

Our Salt Lake City ENT doctors are committed to promoting the health and well being of your patients and we strongly recommend you get a flu shot each year. Use the Utah Flu Vaccination Locator tool to find a flu shot location near you. And call the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 for an appointment if you have flu symptoms.

See: Utah Flu Vaccination Locator

Sleep apnea linked to cancer

Study Reveals Sleep Apnea Increases Cancer Risks

Sleep apnea is a common problem in America: nearly 30 million Americans have some form of sleep apnea or gaps in breathing while sleeping.

It’s already well established that sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, stroke, depression and heart disease.

Now researchers have discovered a link between sleep apnea and cancer. In fact, sleep apnea sufferers may be up to 5 times more likely to die from cancer of any kind. True.

Read: What is Sleep Apnea

Dr. Javier Nieto, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, studied more than 1,500 people and 22 years of data from the Wisconsin Sleep Study and identified the link between apnea and cancer.

“Clearly, there is a correlation, and we are a long way from proving that sleep apnea causes cancer or contributes to its growth,” says Nieto, an expert in sleep epidemiology. “But animal studies have shown that the intermittent hypoxia (an inadequate supply of oxygen) that characterizes sleep apnea promotes angiogenesis-increased vascular growth – and tumor growth. Our results suggest that SDB is also associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality in humans.”

Simple translation: people with severe sleep apnea tend to have less oxygen in their systems and grow more blood vessels that feed all cells–including cancerous cells.

The Wisconsin researchers discovered that people with severe sleep-disordered breathing died of cancer at a rate 4.8 times higher than people with no sleep-breathing problems.

While additional studies are needed to replicate the study results, Dr. Nieto states, “Sleep apena is a serious problem that needs to be treated if you have it and this [information] is one more reason to worry about it.”

Watch ABC News Report about Cancer and Sleep Apnea

Learn More about Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is indeed a serious condition and one that deserves serious attention. Our Ear, Nose and Throat doctors in Salt Lake City and Draper, Utah regularly diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Our advice is that if you or a sleeping partner recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor to ensure you receive the care you need.

There are also procedures and therapies that can cure or at least help you manage the symptoms of sleep apena. One of the most common sleep apnea treatments is the use of a Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which is essentially a mask that fits over your nose and blows in air to keep the airway tissues open while you sleep.

Another recent development is the use of da Vinci robotic surgery to help cure sleep apnea. Our own Dr. Pramod Sharma is one of few Utah sleep apnea doctors who perform the procedure that can eliminate sleep apnea completely–without visible scarring.

Read: Robotic Surgery Can Help Cure Sleep Apnea