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Strep Throat

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Strep Throat

Strep Throat: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options in South Portland

Sore throat is not always strep throat. In fact, viral pharyngitis accounts for over 50% of sore throat. According to the CDC, Group A Streptococcus makes up only 20%-30% of sore throats in children and 5%-15% of sore throats in adults. Strep throat is an infection caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria that affects the throat and tonsils. Unlike most sore throats, which are viral in nature, strep throat requires specific attention due to its bacterial origin.

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Symptoms of Strep Throat

Strep manifests with a distinct set of symptoms, distinguishing it from other throat infections. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include the following:

  • Fever: Individuals with strep often experience a sudden onset of fever, which chills and body aches may accompany.
  • Pain when Swallowing: Swallowing becomes painful and uncomfortable due to inflammation and irritation of the throat and tonsils.
  • Red and Swollen Tonsils: The tonsils appear inflamed and swollen and may appear red. In severe cases, they may exhibit white patches or streaks of pus.
  • White Patches or Streaks of Pus: White patches or streaks of pus may be visible on the surface of the tonsils, indicating a bacterial infection.
  • Tiny, Red Spots on the Roof of the Mouth (Petechiae): Petechiae, small red spots, may develop on the roof of the mouth, particularly toward the back.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes in the front of the neck may become tender and swollen as the body's immune system fights off the bacterial infection.

Less common symptoms of this throat infection may include:

  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash, particularly in cases of scarlet fever

It's important to note that symptoms such as cough, runny nose, and hoarseness are uncommon in strep throat and are more indicative of viral infections.

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How Is it Transmitted?

Group A Streptococcus bacteria are highly contagious and can be transmitted through various means:

  • Respiratory Droplets: When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, they expel respiratory droplets containing the bacteria into the air. Inhalation of these droplets by others can lead to infection.
  • Direct Contact: Contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected individual, such as sharing utensils or touching surfaces contaminated with respiratory droplets, can facilitate the spread of bacteria.
  • Food Contamination: Although rare, group A strep bacteria can be transmitted through improperly handled food.

Strep Diagnosis

Healthcare providers begin the diagnostic process by conducting a thorough clinical evaluation, which involves assessing the patient's symptoms, medical history, and physical examination findings.

Rapid strep test:

A rapid strep test, or rapid antigen detection test, is a quick diagnostic test performed in the healthcare provider's office or clinic. During the test, a swab is gently rubbed against the back of the throat and tonsils to collect a sample of throat secretions. The collected sample is then analyzed using a rapid strep test kit to detect the presence of group A Streptococcus bacteria. Results of the rapid strep test are usually available within minutes, allowing for timely treatment decisions.

Throat culture:

The throat is also swabbed for a throat culture. While a throat culture takes more time to get results, it sometimes confirms infection that the rapid strep test missed.

Treatment Options

Effective treatment of strep involves addressing the bacterial infection promptly to alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and reduce the risk of transmission to others.


  • Healthcare providers typically prescribe antibiotics, such as penicillin or amoxicillin, to combat the group A Streptococcus bacteria responsible for this throat infection.
  • It's crucial to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if symptoms improve before the medication is finished. This ensures the eradication of the bacteria from your system and reduces the risk of recurrence.
  • Individuals allergic to penicillin may be prescribed alternative antibiotics based on their medical history and allergy profile.

Symptomatic Relief

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate fever, throat pain, and discomfort associated with strep.
  • Gargling with warm salt water or using throat lozenges may temporarily relieve throat irritation.

Supportive Care

  • Adequate rest and hydration are essential for supporting the body's immune response and promoting recovery from strep.
  • Consuming soothing liquids, such as warm tea with honey, broth-based soups, and cool beverages, can help soothe the throat and maintain hydration.
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Keeping Others Safe

Preventing the transmission of strep is crucial for maintaining individual and community health.

  • Hand Hygiene: Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of group A Streptococcus bacteria.
  • Respiratory Hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets containing bacteria.
  • Avoid Close Contact: Minimize close contact with individuals with strep or other respiratory infections. If someone in your household is diagnosed with strep, take precautions to prevent the spread of bacteria within the household.

Seek Treatment at an AFC Family Urgent Care Center

If you suspect you or a loved one may have strep or are experiencing symptoms consistent with this bacterial infection, don't hesitate to visit AFC South Portland for expert evaluation and urgent health care services. Our experienced healthcare providers are dedicated to providing comprehensive medical services, including the diagnosis and treatment of strep throat.

Contact AFC today. Our team is ready to address your health concerns and provide the care you need to feel better quickly.

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