Treating strep throat

By PENDA HONEYGHAN

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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SORE throats are a common occurrence in children, and in most instances they get better on their own. However, according to paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith, there are other times when sore throats are as a result of more serious infections, one of these being the bacterium streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat.

“Most sore throats are caused by viruses, but bacteria also remain a significant cause in a particular group A streptococcus, from which the term 'strep throat' is coined. They are usually painful, cause swelling, and involve the tonsils,” Dr Griffith said.

She pointed out that pain associated with the condition is often worse on swallowing, and, as such, may manifest as decreased appetite in children, or the desire for cool liquids rather than warm liquids or solid foods; as well as fever and swelling of the glands or lymph nodes in the neck area.

“Strep throat can be highly suspected if the fever is higher and sustained for a prolonged period. There may be white or yellow secretions noted on the tonsils, red spots on the back of the roof of the mouth can also be present, and these will be confirmed on inspection by your physician. Stomach pains can also be noted with strep throat. Also, a skin rash known as scarlet fever is caused by this germ and may be present at the time of the fever,” Dr Griffith outlined.

She said the condition, which can affect individuals of any age group, is most often seen in small children and sometimes infants. She noted that this is because the highly contagious infection, which is transmitted by germs through droplets or the inhaled route, is common in settings such as school and day-care centres.

“The infected child usually has contact with the germ in the two-to three-week period prior to the onset of the infection. The real way to confirm the presence of this bacteria is by lab tests; however, there is a rapid test which can detect substances produced by the germ. It is a quick, office-based test which is relatively reliable, but may miss some cases,” Dr Griffith advised.

She said that for more accurate results, the definitive test is a culture or swab of the throat taken at the time of the infection. It takes between 24 to 48 hours to return a result. Once it is confirmed, Dr Griffith said that the condition is treated with a course of antibiotics to avoid complications of the infection.

“As with many illnesses, complications may occur as a result of direct spread of the infection to other areas of the body, such as the middle ear (ear infection), blood (bacteremia and sepsis), sinuses (sinusitis) and the tonsils (tonsillitis). [There is also the possibility] of [an] inflammatory reaction produced by the body in response to the bacteria such as glomerulonephritis, which is the inflammation of the kidney, or rheumatic fever, which affects the heart and other tissues,” Dr Griffith underscored.

She said that strep throat is one of those illnesses which can recur in those who have been previously infected. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to minimise the risk of this happening as well as to prevent the first-time transmission.

“There are several things that can be done to prevent or reduce the likelihood of transmission. Hygiene is the mainstay of managing the transmission of this germ. Therefore you have to wash your hands with soap and water frequently, sanitise hands with appropriate alcohol-based sanitiser, and importantly, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing. It is important that this is not done with an open hand but into the elbow, or covered ideally with a disposable tissue or towel which should be properly disposed of,” Dr Griffith advised.


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