Healthy Living

Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Key Takeaways

  • Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection. 
  • Strep throat usually affects young children until the age of 15-years-old. 
  • Carriers of the strep infection are individuals who have the streptococcal bacteria, but have no signs and symptoms at all. 

How does strep throat spread?

Sore throat is a very common condition that often affects kids and adults alike. Colds, flu, viruses, and other environmental irritants like polluted air, smoke etc can often cause this throat irritation. However, strep throat is different from the common throat infection.

It is an infection of the throat that is triggered by a bacteria. An infection that affects kids often can lead parents to wonder whether their kids have been affected by strep throat or something else. Identifying the illness correctly is important to start off your kid on the right treatment to avoid delay and discomfort. 

When someone has strep throat, caused by streptococcal bacteria, it infects the entire throat area, also contaminating the fluids found in the area.

Strep throat is contagious. Anytime the infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks, water droplets are discharged from their throats. This can affect someone who is close to them if they are in direct contact, but most of the time, the droplets land on surfaces.

Bacteria requires a host to survive, so the bacteria can die if it lands on a dry surface for a few hours. However, most of the time, someone who is not infected tends to touch the infected surface way before the bacteria dies, acquiring the bacteria. Even then, the bacteria can not cause an infection on the hands, and is only activated when the person gets it into their body. This can be through touching their own lips, nose, and even eyes.

The bacteria then gets the favorable conditions it requires to infect the host and begin to multiply. The typical incubation period for the bacteria can be anywhere between two and five days from the time it got into the system.

Most of the time, however, our immune system is able to fight off the strep throat infection, but the immune system in children is often weaker, which is why strep throat is most common among children between 5-years-old and 15-years-old. However, even an adult’s immune system may be weakened due to another infection or stress, and this can lead to their contracting strep throat.

How do you know you have the infection?

The initial symptoms of strep throat and also the most telling are a sore throat and fever. Consider your own whereabouts prior to these symptoms to establish if there is a chance you got the infection from someone.

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Symptoms include:

  • whitish or yellowish pus on the throat and tonsils
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Carriers of the strep infection

There are those individuals who may have the streptococcal bacteria and suffer no symptoms called carriers. Because they don’t show any symptoms, it can be difficult to identify them from the group. However, you can spot the carrier among your children or students when there are recurrent cases of strep throat and they don’t seem to be infected.

Carriers are different because, instead of the bacteria affecting their throats, the bacteria lies in the pharynx. This occurs in about 12% of children, which is why the infection is so common. Treatment for carriers is the only option you get to avoid further infections, but even then, about 15% of them will always test positive for strep throat. They are referred to as true carriers and will not respond to treatment.

Diagnosing a strep throat infection

Diagnosing a strep throat infection is important for treating the infection completely. The doctor will conclude the diagnosis as a strep throat infection after examining symptoms.

The way to be completely sure that the strep is actually a strep throat infection is through a definitive test. There are two types of tests that are performed to diagnose and conclude a strep throat infection:

Rapid strep test: This test can identify and conclude the infection to be a strep throat infection in no time. The doctor gently examines the tongue, and with a cotton swab takes a little mucus as sample from back of the throat.

The doctor will be able to give out the test results in about 20 minutes or so. If the test is positive, indicating a strep throat infection, the doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and treat the infection. However, in case the test results come negative, then a further laboratory test may be required, where the doctor would send the sample to the laboratory. In this case, results will take longer to confirm.

Throat culture: A throat culture is a more detailed examination. In this test the doctor takes the sample obtained from the throat on to a special dish meant for laboratory use. In case the infection is positive, then the streptococci bacteria grows on the special dish.

Normally, the results from the throat culture test take around two days to return.

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Treating strep throat naturally

Normally, symptoms of strep throat are painful and uncomfortable. The symptoms can cause so much discomfort that you often have no choice but to visit a doctor to get remedies for your symptoms.

Unfortunately, this can lead to an over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors to treat the strep throat infection, which can be a problem for kids suffering from this infection. Consuming excessive antibiotics often tends to create a resistance towards the bacteria.

Here are some natural remedies that can be highly effective in killing the bacteria and treating the strep throat infection:

  • Apple cider vinegar – One of the most effective and tried and tested methods of treating a strep throat infection naturally is through apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has numerous health benefits and helps the body to fight a number of infections including bacterial infections. Gargling with some apple cider vinegar diluted in warm water can be extremely helpful in treating the strep throat infection. The amount of apple cider vinegar that one uses to treat the infection could vary from person to person. This remedy could work in about 30 minutes to provide immediate relief.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a useful remedy to cure several infections like scurvy. The infection helps to combat several infections, viruses, and stressful situations and helps in promoting overall health and well being in a person. Consuming about 1,000mg of vitamin C helps in bettering overall health, and and to help treat a strep throat infection.
  • Cayenne pepper – Just like apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper is also known to be a highly effective natural treatment to help an irritated throat. Mix some cayenne pepper with a small amount of water, or just consume the powder of the pepper as a whole. Some people also make a paste of the pepper powder with some honey.

Is strep throat dangerous?

Strep throat in itself is not a dangerous disease. However, the strep bacteria, which is prime cause of the infection, can lead to several complications. If left untreated, strep can lead to several complications, particularly in children. If the strep throat infection fails to improve within one or two days of starting treatment, then it could mean the start of another infection which could cause the infection to spread to areas other than the throat. It could also lead to an inflammation or another reaction in the body.

The streptococcus bacteria could also result in an infection of the tonsils or the sinus when it is not treated in time. Sometimes, it could also lead to an infection in the skin, the ears, or even the blood when this bacteria remains in the body for too long.

Group A strep bacteria can lead to scarlet fever impetigo, toxic shock syndrome, cellulitis, and other diseases like necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease). A person who has been infected with the strep bacteria could also catch rheumatic fever in about two to four weeks of being infected with the bacteria. The main symptoms of this condition include swelling in the joints and rising body temperature.

Group B strep bacteria can also lead to several complications including blood infections, and other medical conditions like pneumonia and meningitis, particularly in small children. Some women could also pass this bacteria in pregnancy to their unborn baby. A woman could carry this bacteria in her intestines or her vagina.

However, it is usually not the case that this infection could be passed on to the partner through sexual contact.

If babies catch this infection, they must be monitored very closely. Infection can lead to serious complications, like sepsis of the blood.

In adults, Group B strep could also lead to infections of the urinary tract, of the blood, of the skin, and so on.

Strep bacteria could also result in other critical medical conditions, including inflammation of the kidneys.