Strep throat is one of those ailments that you typically don’t ever forget experiencing. With over 3 million cases of strep being diagnosed each year in the United States, the illness certainly doesn’t discriminate. It can develop commonly in children, adults, and senior citizens alike.
Strep throat isn’t the worst illness one can develop, but you definitely know the difference between a regular, everyday sore throat, and the strep version. Most obtain strep via children passing it around. The bacteria hangs around inside the throat called “group A streptococcus” and as many are unaware they have strep yet, this is how the illness spreads.
This all relates back to instilling good hand washing habits with the little ones, as a simple one minute scrub can prevent a lot of sick days. Strep throats generally force you to go see a doctor because you can’t swallow food very well, and the pain of your throat swelling up can be unbearable.
1. Trouble Swallowing
Food tends to become your worst nightmare for those with strep, as they still feel hungry like always, but they just can’t swallow their meals.
The tonsils become so enlarged that even drinking liquids is challenging. Once you obtain antibiotics from your physician, you can slowly start to enjoy eating again.
In the meantime, try to stick with a liquid diet if need be. Blend smoothies, consume lots of clear liquids, and without question enjoy lots of cold items such as Popsicles, and Jello. Ice water is also always a reliable “go-to” for strep patients as the colder the beverage, the better if feels on the throat.
Typically headaches accompany the onset of a cold, flu, and also strep throat.
Try taking a hot shower, going for a walk, or drinking lots of water. If your headache doesn’t subside for over a day and you’re noticing other symptoms such as a sore throat, it may be an initial sign of strep.
The headache portion of the illness is typically the easiest part of the ailment. Throat pain usually trumps all of the other side effects, but try taking an over the counter pain killer for the headache. A cold wash cloth over your neck and head may also help the pain subside.
3. Swollen Neck
Strep has a way of making you appear as if you’ve inhaled something! You can start to notice lumps forming, or the throat looking red on the skin.
Your throat will have very swollen lymph nodes that will be easily noticed from the outside of your neck without having to even look inside your throat.
It will begin to feel sore, and if you have this symptom it is best to get to your doctor quickly to start a round of antibiotics immediately. Not much else can help with swollen lymph nodes, other than laying a cold wrap around the front of the neck for a few minutes. Possibly drinking cold ice water, and trying to keep your head slightly elevated during the illness may also provide some much needed relief.
Generally any ailment that mimics a cold or flu will have a fever as well.
Fevers that are symptomatic of strep can run pretty high. It is imperative that if you begin developing a high fever that doesn’t subside with over the counter medications, to make an appointment with your medical provider before things become severe.
Cold wraps, drinking cold water, ice packs, and administering products such as Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin may be very helpful.
5. White Patches in Throat
A very telltale sign of strep is when you look inside your mouth and see white spots or even red ones in your mouth, especially near the throat region.
If you’ve never really examined your own throat before, it’s fairly simple. Get a small mirror that you can move around your face easily and use a flashlight with your other hand to see inside your mouth and throat.
If the patient is a child, you as the parent or caregiver can easily do the same by having the child stick their tongue out and peek into their throat to see if it appears inflamed, red, swollen, or if it has white patches growing inside. If so, definitely get to an urgent care center, or to your family doctor’s office to start getting some antibiotics in to start killing the strep.
6. Loss of Appetite
Imagine not being able to swallow even water without feeling sensitivity and pain in your throat; you will not have any desire to eat much. This is all totally normal and rather expected!
Due to the decrease in regular meals each day your strep hangs around, patients will have a small weight loss take effect. It usually isn’t a big deal because after a few days of taking the antibiotics, you’re back to resuming your normal diet.
If the patient begins to drop a lot of weight, or starts developing nutritional exhaustion, or dehydration please get them to a medical provider’s office at once.
Strep has a way of making you feel pretty lousy. Nausea can be one of the initial symptoms patients develop and it is to advise you that an illness is brewing inside.
Since nausea can come about for several other reasons, ensure that your nausea is in addition to another strep throat symptom before jumping to conclusions.
Nausea along with a sore throat, white patches in the throat, or a fever should definitely be evaluated.
8. Sore Throat
Naturally, strep throat is going to cause a soreness in the entire neck and throat region.
Strep pain is much more severe than what you experience with a cold or any other illness. The pain is scratchy, achy, and tends to feel as if you’ve swallowed toothpicks.
It’s a jabbing or stabbing pain in the throat that will force you to have it checked out. If this sounds familiar, then try to combat the pain first at home with over the counter throat lozenges, or throat numbing sprays. If you start to develop a sore throat with swollen lymph nodes around the neck, along with a fever then it likely will be tested at your doctor’s office for strep.
9. Swollen Tonsils
Always look into your throat when you begin to feel swollen glands or tonsils to be certain that’s what is going on.
Sometimes patients just have one enlarged lymph node and they think it is their tonsils. When your tonsils are swollen, you can see them clear as day when you open your mouth. They tend to appear like two swollen punching bags inside your throat, that are undeniably your tonsils.
Always have this examined as it could be strep throat, or it could also be tonsillitis. Both are serious and require professional treatment.
10. Wheezy Coughing
When patients begin to develop strep throat, many report wheezing or coughing as their first warning sign.
When you’re trying to sleep at night it can be very disrupting, or while you are trying to eat. Wheezing can be signs of other ailments such as asthma or bronchitis as well, so keep an eye on it and if you start to build up additional symptoms, write them all down and head to your doctor’s office.
Strep is an illness that will put your life on hold for at least a few days, but the silver lining is that it is treatable. Once you’ve been screened to confirm it is strep (which is by a throat culture where they swab your throat with cotton to get a sample) the medical team will give you a dose of antibiotics to start taking immediately.
Remember to always finish all of your antibiotics to ensure you have stopped the virus and bacteria from growing and continuing to make you sick.