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 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. 

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.