Strep throat is a throat infection caused by bacteria called streptococcus. The symptoms of strep throat in adults are a general sore throat accompanied by fever, swollen glands in the neck and a headache. Strep throat can be a bit more serious for children and often results in the same sore throat, fever and swollen glands along with pain in the stomach and vomiting.
Strep throat treatment usually consists of antibiotics and bed rest. The antibiotics kill the streptococcus bacteria and prevent the infection from progressing into more serious complications such as tonsillitis and rheumatic fever. Not all sore throats are caused by the streptococcus bacteria. Many sore throats are caused by common viruses that will not respond to antibiotic treatment. The only way to tell if a sore throat is actually strep throat is with a throat sample performed at a doctor's office. The throat swab sample is a 15-minute test performed using a cotton swab at the back of the throat. A throat culture is a longer test that can take up to two days to get the results back from a laboratory.
Strep throat is infectious until antibiotic treatment is prescribed. The infectious period can last up to three days after treatment with antibiotics begins. Young children who have strep throat should not go to school until their fever has gone down and they have taken an antibiotic for at least 24 hours.
Over the counter medications (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin) can be taken to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with strep throat. Children should not take aspirin because it can cause a serious illness called Reyes syndrome when it is given to children under 18 years of age. The length and severity of a strep throat infection can be reduced by staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest.