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Understanding Strep Throat -- The Basics

What Is Strep Throat?

If you're feeling fine one moment and then suddenly your throat is killing you, you're running a high fever, and all your energy has vanished in a haze of illness, you may have strep throat.

"Strep," in this case, stands for Streptococcus pyogenes, a common strain of bacteria that can live in your throat and nose for months without causing any harm. Tests show that about 20% of healthy people during the winter have the strep "bug" living uneventfully in their mouths or throats, without causing any symptoms. These carriers, who have no symptoms, do not spread strep germs and do not need to be tested or treated for strep.  

Understanding Strep Throat

If your throat is sore, you're running a high fever, and you have no energy -- you may have strep throat. Here's what you should know.

Once in awhile, though, these bugs can turn on you. Maybe you've been under too much stress, or your immune system has been overtaxed from fighting a virus such as a common cold or the flu. Or perhaps you've picked up a bug from an infected person. Whatever the reason, the normally quiet strep organisms can suddenly start spewing out toxins and inflammatory substances to bring on a sore throat and other symptoms.

Although strep throat feels awful, it can be cured easily with antibiotics such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, or clindamycin. In fact, one of the biggest problems with strep is getting people to seek treatment. Because a fever and sore throat are also symptoms of colds and the flu, strep throat is often mistaken for these ailments.

But colds and flu normally take several days to develop, they are caused by viruses and usually accompanied by a cough, stuffy or runny nose, and headache, and they go away on their own within five to seven days. Strep throat, by contrast, usually arrives in a hurry, without any other cold or flu symptoms and should be treated with antibiotics to prevent more serious disease and stop its spread to others.

Strep throat should not be taken lightly. Untreated, it can continue to spread to others. It’s also possible for strep throat bacteria to spread to other tissues, causing an abscess or more-serious infection. Untreated, strep throat can, though rarely, lead to a more severe illness such as kidney disease or rheumatic fever (a serious heart condition) that can be fatal.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on March 12, 2014

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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