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How to Prevent Strep Throat? Here Is How to Protect Yourself and Loved Ones

Strep throat is one of the infections that is very common but also very commonly confused for a viral fever or the flu. Not knowing what strep throat is can be the cause of this confusion, or it could simply be something we tend to ignore or not assume the worst of. As symptoms worsen, the condition will have already progressed into a more painful one, thus forcing us to start high power antibiotics to treat it. What is strep throat though, and what makes it different and more severe than the flu? More importantly, how to prevent strep throat? Let’s introduce ourselves to what this infection is.

What is strep throat?

  • Also known as streptococcal pharyngitis, strep throat is a condition that affects the pharynx of an individual causing redness and inflammation of the tonsils and the throat.
  • This infection is brought upon by a Group A bacterium called streptococcus.
  • Streptococcus is found in the throat or the skin, making it easy for the bacteria to enter a person’s system at any given time or place.
  • Once streptococci enter one’s body, it infects the throat thus causing strep throat in a person.
  • Streptococcus also causes other diseases like impetigo.
  • Strep throat although not fatal, can damage other organs.

The incubation period for strep throat

The incubation period varies from person to person in most cases. A person who is more vulnerable to infections will start showing symptoms in a day, right after being introduced to the bacteria. On the other hand, a person who is usually healthy and does not contract infections easily will show symptoms approximately five days after being infected. Since it is still the beginning stage, the condition once identified can be easily tackled with antibiotics prescribed by general physicians.

The incubation period for strep throat is observed to be 2-5 days. Strep throat can be contagious even in its asymptomatic stage.

How to prevent strep throat from spreading to others?

If you have been diagnosed with strep throat, you should start medication immediately. Along with that, you need to ensure that you don’t spread it to others and pose a risk to their health. There are some things you can keep in mind to achieve this.

  • Avoid being in close vicinity with other people. Since strep throat is spread by bacteria, you can easily pass it along just by talking to a person.
  • Do not share personal belongings with others. Special focus should be given to towels, napkins, brushes, and other hygiene products since they are a breeding spot for bacteria.
  • Wash your hands before you touch anything, and also after going to the restroom.
  • If you’re the one who cooks for your family, avoid doing so when you have strep throat. Do not share food with others and use your spoon rather than someone else’s.
  • If you have a child suffering from strep throat, make them stay at home and not go to school or daycare.

How to prevent yourself from strep throat?

It is always better to take precautionary measures so as not to undergo unwanted infections that become a hindrance to your everyday life, even for a short while. Read on to find out how you can prevent contracting this infection.

  • No matter what you touch or where you go, no matter how clean you think something is, always wash your hands thoroughly. If your job requires you to meet new people on a regular basis, always sanitise your hands after shaking hands with somebody. An alcohol-based sanitizer is your best bet.
  • Do not share personal belongings, or have intimate moments with someone who is sick. It may come off as impolite and unloving, but you would be doing both of you a favour and stopping it from spreading.
  • Do not drink from the same glass, or eat from the same spoon of an infected person.
  • If you come across a person suffering from strep, advise them to stay in bed and rest till the infection stops being contagious.
  • Strengthen your immune system. Eat a balanced diet rich with vitamins. People with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to infections.
  • Never ignore the signs and symptoms your body is trying to send you. If you have a sore throat that refuses to go away, get it checked by your health provider immediately.

How do you know if you have strep throat?

The first sign of strep throat is a sore throat. A sore throat is not the only indicator that is necessary to determine the infection. Other signs of strep throat are:

  • A skin rash.
  • Common cold.
  • Bright red colour in the back of the throat that may or may not is bleeding.
  • A dry, uncontrollable itch at the back of the throat.
  • Swollen tonsils that may be puss filled.
  • White patches in the throat.
  • A fever which doesn’t go away on its own, although this doesn’t happen to every patient.

If you’re confused about your symptoms and unsure about what to do, ask your doctor to perform a strep test. This test comes in two types as per the patient’s requirements.

A rapid strep test is when the doctor would take a sample of the fluids at the back of your throat with a cotton swab and place it under a microscope for closer observation. It can take a few minutes, but it is the fastest way to rule in or rule out strep throat. However, if a rapid strep test is unable to identify the problem, the doctor will perform a throat culture. In this test, just like the rapid antigen test, he/she will rub a sterile swab of cotton on the back of the patient’s throat. This swab will then be sent to a laboratory for testing. If the streptococcus bacteria are found growing on the swab after a couple of days, the test comes out positive. In this case, the patient is immediately put on a course of antibiotics. This course should be completed right until the end. Otherwise, strep throat can make a reappearance.

Treatment for Sore Throat

If the test comes back positive, antibiotics are the best way to kill streptococcus. Penicillin or amoxicillin in the form of pills or syrups is given to the patient. Ones allergic to penicillin are given its equivalent substitute.

Antibiotics, although effective, can come at a price of their own which is not always monetary. Since they are high in dosage, antibiotics work to kill all bacteria in the throat and not just streptococcus. The killing of good bacteria, in turn, makes one suffer from various side effects like headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, etc. These side effects are not severe, but they cause a great deal of discomfort to an already ailing person. This is why the need to complete the course prescribed by the doctor is so stressed upon. Antibiotics, if ingested time and again, can cause a lot of harm to the kidneys. There have been reports of kidney failures due to overuse of antibiotics. Drinking a lot of water during your illness helps flush out toxins formed by antibiotics, thus ridding the body of unwanted clutter and harm.

There are some proven home remedies for people who wish to minimise the side effects of antibiotics and also treat strep throat. Gargling with salt in warm water does wonder to reduce inflammation, whereas green tea with honey has amazing healing properties. Use of turmeric powder in milk is also a proven healer, as well as lukewarm water from time to time helps ease the pain and lubricate the dryness in the throat.

An infection, no matter how minuscule it may seem, always comes with greater threats than we realise. We try ignoring symptoms for as long as we can bear them but regret doing so once they turn into a disease. Strep throat too, like many other conditions comes with its risk factors, ones who could prove life-threatening or damaging beyond repair. Taking our health seriously is the need of the hour. By looking after ourselves, we’re also looking after our near and dear ones. By making our health a priority, we pose an example to others and inspire them to follow in our footsteps. Let’s start taking this seriously, and ensure a better lifestyle for ourselves and those around us, every day.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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