Its scientific name is Group A Streptococcal pharyngitis, but terrified parents nationwide know it solely by its blood-curdling street cred: strep throat.
Symptoms of this dreaded school-age malady often include:
- sore throat
- pain when swallowing
- bright red throat with pale spots
- swollen lymph nodes
In fact, the collective panic regarding this bacteria-bred sore throat is enough to make it one of the leading causes for pediatric visits hinging on the expectation of a throat swab and the swift and inexorable delivery of amoxicillin.
But therein lies the problem. Every year in the United States, approximately 47 million antibiotic prescriptions are written and filled unnecessarily. While strep throat in kids causes up to 30 percent of sore throats each year, most other cases are viral in nature – and are completely impervious to antibiotics.
Complicating matters, approximately 10-15 percent of children are “strep carriers,” which means the bacteria is ever-present in their throats, though causing no symptoms or pain. This contributes to a number of false-positive strep tests and the subsequent administration of antibiotics, when the real culprit behind the carrier’s sore throat is a virus.
Think that’s astounding? Wait for this little culture shock:
In the majority of cases of strep throat – for both adults and children, alike – the condition will clear up on its own within 7 days.
By and large, however, physicians treat strep with antibiotics to prevent frightening complications, such as rheumatic fever. This condition, though extremely rare, occurs when the body has an extreme reaction to the strep bacteria and attacks itself, occasionally causing damage to the valves of the heart.
Antibiotics also significantly reduce the length of contagion, with those who are treated generally being considered “in the clear” 24 hours after beginning a 10-day course. Otherwise, those with strep can be contagious for up to three weeks, even in the absence of symptoms.
However, antibiotics are not without their own set of side effects – and have been known to cause severe allergic reactions, diarrhea, and other side effects in a small percentage of the population. Meanwhile, overuse can result in the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which means newer, stronger, scarier bouts of strep.
If you believe your child may have strep throat, the most important thing is to consult a trusted pediatric provider.
Your doctor will conduct a rapid strep test in the office, which yields results in less than 15 minutes. If the result is normal, a sample will be sent to a lab for a culture that can both rule out any potential false negative and/or confirm the presence of the strep bacteria.
KinderMender believes in doing right by our patients, which involves remaining ever-vigilant in prescribing antibiotics only when they are absolutely necessary, and not abusing our medical resources.
If you believe your child has strep throat, come see us today. Our three Maryland locations are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.