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What To Do If You Have Strep Throat

Updated on March 8, 2012

The Diagnosis

Oh, no! A positive strep test! The doctor just told you that you have strep throat! Here comes a big ole shot of penicillin or a course of p.o. (by mouth) antibiotics. You are told that you need to be out of work for the next 24 hours as you're contagious until those antibiotics have been in your system for a full day.

Here's a few more things that you should know about strep throat and what you can do...


Do: Motrin (same as Advil or ibuprofen) can be very helpful as it reduces throat inflammation in addition to fever reduction and pain reliever. If you have a history of gastric ulcers, this is probably not a good option for you. For adults, a dose of 600mg (3 tablets) every 6-8 hours can be very helpful the first 24 hours that you're on antibiotics.

Don't: Consider staying away from milk and milk-based products (put down the ice cream and leftover eggnog!). Those food choices have the potential to make your secretions thicker and make you feel like you're choking (even worse than that yucky strep bacteria already does).

Do: Non-milk based Popsicles are a wonderful option! Try to stay away from crunchy foods and opt for those smooth juice pops. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, like Gatorade, Powerade, or Pedialite.

Don't: Share! Please keep your cup, spoon, plate, food, kisses, and toothbrush to yourself! You're still contagious these first 24 hours, and sharing can share those strep bugs.

Do: Buy a new toothbrush to use after your first 24 hours of antibiotic use wrap up, or you risk the potential of reinfecting yourself with strep.


Potential Complications With Strep

Other Infections: Strep can spread and result in sinus or ear infections. Rarely, an ear infection can spread into the mastoid air cells of the bone behind the ear, causing mastoiditis. Another possible infection is pneumonia.

Scarlet Fever: Remember the Velveteen Rabbit? Scarlet fever is just strep fever with a rash, and thanks to antibiotics, we don't need to burn our stuffed animals anymore! If the rash appears, it can be diffuse (all over the body) and has a slightly rough texture that is likened to sandpaper. The rash will resolve on its own, but it may peel off.

Tonsillar Abscesses: Rarely, strep with retreat further into your throat and create a retropharyngeal (back of throat) or peritonsillar (near the tonsil) abscess. An abscess is a walled off pocket of pus, and you can get very sick very quickly when this occurs. Signs and symptoms are a muffled "hot potato" voice (sounds like you just burned your tongue and your voice is muffled), drooling, and tonsils that are not symmetrical. Please see the doctor right away is this happens.

Epiglottis: This is an infection of the cartiledge flap that covers the trachea (breathing tube) when you swallow so food goes down the esophagus. Rarely, infection can spread to this area. Signs and symptoms include drooling, sensation of swelling in the throat, the muffled
"hot potato" voice, fever, and difficulty laying down due to swelling.

Rheumatic Fever: The strep infection spreads to the valves of the heart. This, again, is a rare complication and usually comes after untreated strep.

Glomerulonephritis: If you start to see blood in your urine after a strep infection, please follow closely with your doctor. This possible complication can occur in your kidneys even if you've been on antibiotics.

Toxic Shock Syndrome: This is an overwhelming strep infection when the bacteria enters the bloodstream. Symptoms include high fever, possible passing out (syncope), and low blood pressure. Please seek medical care immediately.

I hope that you feel better soon!!


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