How to Prevent Throat Infections

It's hard to put your best face forward when it's covered in sores, or when it feels as though your throat is being attacked by an invader that has a thousand tiny knives. Understanding -- and preventing -- some of the most common infectious diseases that affect your swallowing will ensure you greet the world with a smile instead of a frown. In this article, you'll find:

  • Preventing Cold SoresCold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, and they can really affect anyone at anytime. Sharing things that come in contact with your mouth and saliva, such as eating utensils, lip balm, and drinking glasses is a common way of spreading this virus. And since there is no real cure for HSV-1, it's wise to take these prevention suggestions seriously. Learn about cold sores on this page.
  • Preventing MonoTeenagers -- specifically those aged 15 to 17 -- are most at risk to develop mononucleosis, commonly known as "the kissing disease." This infection can be spread through more than just kissing, however. Even getting in the path of a sneeze can transmit mono, so arm yourself with the basics on mono, including what symptoms to look out for. You'll find all of this and more in the section.
  • Preventing Strep ThroatStrep throat can be diagnosed easily (with a throat culture by your doctor) and can be treated effectively (with antibiotics). If left untreated, however, you could come down with rheumatic fever, which can be very serious. Learn how to prevent strep throat from entering your home as well as what some of the most common symptoms are on this page.

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.

Preventing Cold Sores

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Cold sores can be passed by sharing the same drinking glass  with an infected person.

Everyone is susceptible to getting cold sores, but there are preventative measures you can take to decrease your chances. Learn more about cold sores below.

Cold Sore Basics

Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is to blame for cold sores. It causes a contagious infection that can produce cold sores around or, occasionally, in the mouth. (Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are different because they only occur inside the mouth. Canker sores are not due to herpes simplex or any identified infection.)

Herpes simplex type 1 is transmitted through direct contact between people when they kiss or, for instance, share lip balm or eating utensils. Herpes blisters can form on the lips, gums, roof of the mouth, and throat, then burst and crust over. These sores can linger up to three weeks.

Other symptoms include muscle aches, fever, irritability, and swollen neck glands. If a severe sore throat and swallowing problems follow, dehydration might result. This can require a hospital stay, especially for small children.

In many people, after an initial infection the virus can lie dormant in the nerve cells without exhibiting symptoms until it reactivates, often because of a stress factor, such as illness with fever, a facial sunburn, the menstrual cycle, or even a toothache. The virus can spread, however, in saliva, even when a person has no symptoms.

No medications exist that can eliminate HSV-1, but prescription treatments can shorten outbreaks and help ease pain.

Who's at Risk for Cold Sores

Anyone can become infected with HSV-1, and almost everyone does, because it is commonly spread among preschool-age children who share food, eating utensils, or drinking glasses.

Defensive Measures Against Cold Sores

There is no cure for HSV-1. In fact, once a person has been infected with the herpes virus, it stays in the body forever. The best medicine, therefore, should be prevention. You can avoid HSV-1 by:

  • Avoiding direct contact with sores if someone has an active herpes infection
  • Not sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Avoiding the factors that trigger activation

Mono, also know as "the kissing disease," is a virus that can not only wreak havoc on your social life, but can force you to feel quite ill for about a month. Learn more about mono on the next page.

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.

Preventing Mono

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Mono usually lasts about a month, but some people feel tired for several months.

Mono has many of the same symptoms of the flu, so it's important to know what else to look out for in case you or someone in your family comes down with this infection. Learn the basics, as well as who is most at risk, in the helpful information that follows.

Mono Basics

Mononucleosis, or "the kissing disease," is a common infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpesvirus family. As its nickname implies, kissing can spread the disease, but it can sometimes be transmitted indirectly through mucus and saliva released in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Most people are exposed to EBV during childhood, but the majority will not develop mononucleosis. People who have been infected with EBV will carry it for the rest of their lives, even if they never have recognizable mono.

However, EBV can cause serious illness, especially a lymph gland cancer such as Burkitt's lymphoma, in people with compromised immune systems, including those with HIV/AIDS and those on medications to suppress immunity following an organ transplant.

EBV can be found in the saliva for six months or more after a case of mono. Because people carry EBV for life, it can periodically reappear in the saliva. According to the National Institutes of Health, EBV is one of the world's most successful viruses, infecting more than 95 percent of the adult population over time.

A blood test is the best way to diagnose mononucleosis, but common symptoms include fever; sore throat; constant fatigue or weakness; headaches; sore muscles; enlarged spleen and liver; skin rash; abdominal pain; and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, or groin. Mono is often mistaken for strep throat or the flu.

Mononucleosis will go away on its own in about four weeks, but teenagers and adults might experience fatigue and weakness for several months. If you or your child has an enlarged spleen and swollen lymph nodes, avoid sports for at least a month. An enlarged spleen can rupture, causing abdominal pain and bleeding. Emergency surgery will be necessary if this happens.

Antiviral medication is usually not needed to treat mononucleosis, but a physician may prescribe prednisonelike steroids to very sick people with the disease.

Who's at Risk for Mono

Infants and children younger than 4 who are infected with EBV usually have very mild symptoms or none at all. Teenagers are most at risk for developing mono -- the peak ages for infection are 15 to 17.

Defensive Measures Against Mono

There is no vaccine for EBV. However, there are steps you can take to try to prevent mono:

  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Avoid close contact with those who have mono.
  • Do not let your child share cups, bowls, glasses, or utensils with someone who is infected.
  • Never allow your child to share a toothbrush.
  • Use disposable paper cups and paper towels in the bathroom.
  • Do not share toys, teething rings, or similar items.
  • Frequently wash and sterilize pacifiers and bottles.
  • Disinfect shared surfaces, such as tabletops, kitchen counters, and play equipment.
  • Make it clear, especially to teenagers, that kissing a person infected with mono is off-limits.

How can you determine if your sore throat is actually strep throat? Learn about telltale signs on the next page.

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.

Preventing Strep Throat

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

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.