Strep pharyngitis, more commonly referred to as strep throat, is an infection of the throat and tonsils that is the result of the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. Characterized by a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen tonsils, strep pharyngitis lasts less than a week and can be curbed with antibiotics. While strep throat can strike almost anyone, the infection is mostly prevalent in children, as they are often in close contact with each other.
The bacteria that causes strep pharyngitis is typically spread by infected nose or throat mucus that disperses in the air when infected individuals cough or sneeze. Strep throat can also be contracted via direct contact with a carrier of the bacteria. Once a person is infected, he will show symptoms within less than a week.
Besides a sore throat, symptoms of strep throat can include a fever, loss of appetite, puffy lymph nodes, and exhaustion. A person's tonsils typically turn a deep red and may also include tiny white or yellow blotches. In some instances, strep throat may be accompanied by a series of red rashes or flaking or peeling skin. Headaches or stomach pain may also be symptoms.
Strep pharyngitis can be treated with an injection of penicillin or a 10-day treatment of antibiotics. If a person stops taking the medication before finishing the prescribed dosage, the strep throat may return. Other treatment may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease pain for a sore throat and drinking plenty of liquids to remain hydrated. Rinsing with warm salt water or ingesting tea with honey may also provide relief against a sore throat.
An individual with strep throat will usually be infectious until 24 hours after taking antibiotics. If a person does not take any treatment, he may be infectious for up to three weeks until all the symptoms have subsided. A person should see a doctor if he feels lightheaded, has trouble breathing, or has severe pain or fever.
In rare instances, complications from strep pharyngitis may arise. The strep infection may spread to other parts of the body, resulting in ear or sinus infections. A serious complication that may occur is rheumatic fever, which may include heart failure and swelling of the joints.
A highly serious complication that may develop is post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. This condition usually occurs 10 days after the beginning of strep throat and may result in temporary kidney failure. Other symptoms of post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis include high blood pressure, fatigue, and a decrease in urine.