©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Steer clear of strep throat by washing your hands -- often.

Preventing Strep Throat

Put out that fire in your throat by going to the doctor and getting a throat culture. If the test results show strep throat, you can usually get rid of it pretty quickly with antibiotics. Learn more about this throat infection below.

Strep Throat Basics

Strep throat is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus). Although a sore throat is a telltale symptom of strep throat, not all sore throats are caused by this bacterial infection. In fact, most sore throats are the result of viruses.

Other strep throat symptoms include red and white patches in the throat; lower stomach pain; fever; general discomfort, uneasiness, or an ill feeling; loss of appetite; nausea; difficulty swallowing; tender or swollen lymph nodes in the neck; red and enlarged tonsils; headache; and a rash that is often worse under the arms and in skin creases (scarlet fever).

Strep throat responds quickly to antibiotics. Although the illness is relatively common, that doesn't mean it can't be dangerous. Untreated strep throat can lead to the serious disease rheumatic fever, although this happens only in rare cases.

Who's at Risk for Strep Throat

Anyone can get strep throat, but it is most common in children who are between the ages of 5 and 15. Watch for strep during the school year, particularly during the winter months when large groups of children and teenagers are in close quarters. Your physician will need to diagnose strep throat using a laboratory test, such as a throat culture.

Defensive Measures Against Strep Throat

The most effective way to keep clear of strep throat is to wash your hands thoroughly (or at the very least use a liquid antibacterial hand sanitizer) and push the practice on your kids. The bacterium that causes strep throat hangs out in the nose and throat like 15-year-olds at the mall, so when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, that gunk can potentially be spread to everything they come in contact with.

If someone in your family gets infected with strep throat, you can take some other precautions (besides washing your hands often) at home to keep everyone else from feeling as though their throats are on fire:

  • Don't allow the sick person to share drinks, foods, napkins, tissues, or even towels with other family members.
  • Be sure the sick person covers his or her mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and then throws it away to prevent passing infectious fluid.
  • Keep the sick person's eating utensils, dishes, and drinking glasses separate from everyone else's.
  • Thoroughly wash eating utensils, dishes, and drinking glasses after each use; if using the dishwasher, select the "sanitize," "heat dry," and/or similar options.
  • Never share a toothbrush.
  • Don't kiss anyone with strep throat.

Don't let throat infections get the best of you. Whether you're battling cold sores, mono, or strep throat, the measures outlined in this article will help nip the infection in the bud. Also take note of the suggestions for preventing another outbreak to keep your family healthy and happy.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laurie L. Dove is an award-winning Kansas-based journalist and author whose work has been published internationally. A dedicated consumer advocate, Dove specializes in writing about health, parenting, fitness, and travel. An active member of the National Federation of Press Women, Dove also is the former owner of a parenting magazine and a weekly newspaper.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.