Strep Throat and Scarlet Fever

What is strep throat and what are the symptoms?

 

Your doctor may call it acute streptococcal pharyngitis. People with strep throat infections have a red and painful sore throat with white patches on their tonsils. A person may also have swollen lymph nodes in the neck, run a fever, and have a headache. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain can occur but are more common in children than in adults.

How long should a child with strep throat stay home from school?

Your child may return to school not less than 24 hours from the time medication has been started or upon documentation of a negative throat culture.

How does Group A strep spread to others?

Group A strep infections can spread from person to person by direct contact with saliva or nasal discharge. Most people do not get group A strep infections from casual contact with others, but a crowded environment like a dormitory, school, or an institutional setting can make it easier for the bacteria to spread. There have also been reports of contaminated food, especially milk and milk products, causing infection. A person becomes sick within 3 days after being exposed to the germ. Once people become infected, they can pass the infection to others for up to 2 to 3 weeks even if they don't have symptoms. After 24 hours of antibiotic treatment, a person will no longer spread the bacteria to others.

How is strep throat diagnosed?

Your doctor or other health care worker will take a sample from your throat. This will be used for a culture or a rapid strep test, which only takes 10 to 20 minutes. If the result of the rapid test is negative, your doctor may do a follow-up culture to confirm the results, which takes 24 to 48 hours. If the culture test is also negative, your doctor may suspect you do not have strep, but rather another type of infection. The results of these throat cultures will affect what your doctor decides to be the best treatment. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, however, and antibiotics are useless against them.

What is the treatment for strep throat?

Your doctor or other health care worker will take a sample from your throat. This will be used for a culture or a rapid strep test, which only takes 10 to 20 minutes. If the result of the rapid test is negative, your doctor may do a follow-up culture to confirm the results, which takes 24 to 48 hours. If the culture test is also negative, your doctor may suspect you do not have strep, but rather another type of infection. The results of these throat cultures will affect what your doctor decides to be the best treatment. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, however, and antibiotics are useless against them.

Penicillin is considered the medicine of choice for treating strep throat because it has been proven to be effective, safe, and inexpensive. Your doctor may have you take pills for 10 days or give you a shot. Doctors often prefer to give amoxicillin to children with strep throat. If you are allergic to penicillin there are other antibiotics your doctor can give you to clear up the illness. During treatment, you may start to feel better within 4 days. This can happen even without treatment. Still it is very important to finish all the medicine in order to prevent complications.

What are the complications of strep throat?

Untreated group A strep infection can result in rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN). Rheumatic fever develops about 18 days after a bout of strep throat and causes joint pain and heart disease. It can be followed months later by a jerky movement disorder called Sydenham chorea. PSGN is an inflammation of the kidneys that may follow an untreated strep throat but more often comes after a strep skin infection. Both disorders are rarely seen in the United States.


 

SCARLET FEVER

What is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever is another form of group A streptococcal disease that can follow strep throat. It is usually self-limited.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?

In addition to the symptoms of strep throat, a red rash appears on the sides of the chest and the abdomen. It may spread to cover most of the body. This rash appears as tiny, red pinpoints and has a rough texture like sandpaper. When pressed on, the rash loses color or turns white. There may also be dark red lines in the folds of skin. People with scarlet fever may get a bright strawberry-red tongue, and their faces are flushed while the area around the mouth remains pale. The skin often peels after recovery usually on tips of fingers and toes. In severe cases, a patient may have a high fever, nausea and vomiting.

How does a person get scarlet fever?

A person can get scarlet fever the same way they get strep throat - through direct person-to- person contact with throat mucus, nasal discharge, and saliva of an infected person.

What is the treatment for scarlet fever?

Like strep throat, a doctor treats scarlet fever with antibiotics.

More information from the Center for Disease Control