A common disease in the winter season is strep throat. Affecting your tonsils and your throat, the virus can spread quickly and affect your home, classroom or workplace. Make sure you know the signs and symptoms to know when to go to a doctor for the right treatment.

How Strep Throat Can Spread

Streptococcal pharyngitis originates in the nose and throat and spreads through sneezing and coughing. Droplets of moisture containing the virus are forced from one throat into the air until they land in a nearby nose or throat. The virus can exist outside of the body for a time, contaminating cups, utensils and other objects in the vicinity and affecting the next person to use them. If someone uses the same utensils without washing them; or touches an infected object, then touches their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands, they may find themselves developing symptoms in the coming days.

Symptoms of Strep Throat

Symptoms of strep throat begin to present several days after initial exposure and increase as the virus settles in. In addition to red spots along the roof of the mouth, near the tonsils, signs of strep throat include:

  • Fever
  • Tonsil irritation
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Several factors affect how at risk you are for strep throat. While anyone can catch the infection, it is most common in children. Teachers or adults working in the childcare field are at increased risk for the virus, especially because of their exposure to large groups of children in relatively confined areas. Outside of the childcare field, 10% of sore throat cases in adults can result in strep throat.

Treating Strep Throat

If you are experiencing a sore throat for longer than two days, you should visit a doctor for diagnosis by performing a swab test to capture material from the back of your throat. There are two tests that can be run on the swab to determine if your sore throat is a result of the strep throat virus. The more common test is called a rapid strep test, which produces a quick diagnosis. A throat culture takes longer to process but will provide your doctor with more thorough results, which can influence the course of treatment prescribed. A culture will also be able to detect other infections and viruses that may be causing a sore throat. Due to enhanced risk of rheumatoid fever, cultures are commonly taken in children under the age of 16. After the test results come in, your physician will be able to prescribe antibiotics to treat the virus over several days.

If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of strep throat, do not wait for them to go away on their own. Visit your local AFC Urgent Care Center for efficient diagnosis and treatment.