Prevent Strep Throat: Five Expert Tips for a Healthy Season

Feb 27, 2024 | Primary Care, Seasonal

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Strep throat, that pesky bacterial infection causing sore throats and discomfort, often seems to strike during colder months with drier air and more time spent inside. 

Brian McManus, MD, ear, nose and throat physician with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group on the Northshore, explains strep throat and shares his strategies to proactively reduce your risk of getting it. 

Strep Throat Symptoms

Strep throat typically presents with a sore throat that can range from mild to severe, often accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Fever: A high fever, usually over 101°F, may accompany strep throat and is often one of the first signs of infection.
  • Swollen Tonsils: Your tonsils may appear red and swollen, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus.
  • Painful Swallowing: Difficulty swallowing, or pain and discomfort when swallowing, is common with strep throat.
  • Headache: Some individuals with strep throat may experience headaches, often accompanied by body aches and fatigue.
  • Stomach Issues: While less common, strep throat can occasionally cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.

“Remember that having a cough usually means you do not have strep throat and more likely have a viral illness,” Dr. McManus says. “You’re less likely to get strep throat over the age of 40 or if your tonsils are removed.”

Five Key Tips to Prevent Strep Throat

1. Strengthen Your Immune System

A robust immune system is your first line of defense against infections like strep throat. Ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and staying physically active. Consider taking a daily multivitamin if approved by your doctor.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Viruses and bacteria responsible for strep throat can linger on surfaces and spread through close contact. Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing or touching shared objects in public places. Avoid touching your face, particularly your mouth and nose, to minimize the chance of getting sick.

Don’t forget to take care of your teeth! Poor dental hygiene can lead to sore throats and tonsil irritation. Gargling with an antiseptic wash can help reduce bacterial load.

3. Keep Your Distance

If someone in your household or workplace is diagnosed with strep throat, take precautions to limit exposure. Encourage them to stay home until they’re no longer contagious, and avoid sharing utensils, cups or other personal items. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces to prevent the spread of germs.

4. Stay Hydrated

Maintaining proper hydration levels helps keep your throat moist and healthy, reducing the likelihood of irritation and susceptibility to infections like strep throat. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and consider soothing beverages like warm tea with honey to alleviate discomfort if you do experience a sore throat. 

Remember that coffee, sodas, energy drinks and alcohol can lead to more dehydration.

5. Seek Prompt Treatment

If you suspect you may have strep throat, don’t delay seeking medical attention. Often no invasive testing is needed, just following some diagnostic criteria and having a good exam can lead to treatment.

Other times a simple throat swab test can confirm the diagnosis, allowing for prompt initiation of appropriate treatment with antibiotics if necessary. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations closely to ensure a speedy recovery and minimize the risk of complications.

Keep your primary care provider informed of how many throat infections you have and how often they happen. This can be important information as surgery can be indicated if enough infections or rounds of treatment occur.

While strep throat may be a common occurrence, it doesn’t have to disrupt your life. By following these expert tips for prevention and staying proactive about your health, you can reduce your risk of falling ill. And if you do get sick, check out our sick day strategies for parents that work equally well for grown-ups.

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