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Strep! Knowing When to Use or Ask for Antibiotics

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I’m home. Pretty miserable. I had what I thought was a sore throat and possibly sinusitis on Sunday. So I thought that if I took some extra vitamin C, got plenty of fluids, and got some rest that in a few days I’d be okay.

That was until Tuesday, when my ears began to hurt and then Wednesday when my fever shot up so that I drank liquids but didn’t have an appetite. I had no energy on Wednesday whereas on Tuesday I had too much. I lost three pounds in one day. When I called the doctor early Wednesday morning, the earliest appointment I could get was Thursday afternoon.

Thursday afternoon, the doctor confirmed that I had streptococcal bacteria infecting my throat and complications (ear infections). I was told I’d be highly contagious until after 24 hours of antibiotics, although I read on the Internet that would be 24 to 48 hours. Next week, if the ears haven’t drained, I’ll need to have minor surgery.

I was exposed to the bacteria two to five days before the signs began to show. Where could I have been exposed? Anywhere. I’m sure, though, that I didn’t notice anyone at work, or at the pool, or at the dance, or dance class that was visibly sick. Most people would think twice before coming to any of those places with a serious illness.

So I began to wonder if someone had decided to tough it out, thinking they just had a bad cold or a flu and then, after seven days, felt better and gone on, not realizing they were still very, very contagious for the next two to three weeks. Perhaps they were one of the lucky few for which the symptoms only lasted three days.

According to Yahoo! Health info, most sore throats are caused by viral infections.

In general, sore throats are most often caused by a viral infection and not strep bacteria. Strep throat does not occur with coldlike symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose. The more coldlike symptoms you have, the less likely it is that your sore throat is a strep infection.

The test for strep throat is quick and painless. I had a swab culture done after the doctor saw my throat was still red and had white spots. If I had been living with a housemate I might have gotten to the doctor earlier, but things get a little fuzzy when you’re feverish. One key symptom is fever: If you have a 101 degree fever, see a doctor ASAP!

I’m not one to take any type of medication without serious consideration. I declined using a highly addictive painkiller three days after surgery. I don’t take aspirin at all. Mostly, I can stand the pain and even meditate it away. Yet I know my body well enough that I knew I needed help. After all of my reading, I think any strep infection should be treated with antibiotics, if only to keep it from spreading, particularly to others who might not have as much resistance. (The surgery I had a year ago has made me more susceptible to throat infections.)

I am glad I had the good sense to take time off of work before I reached my fever state. And I think of this as a medical vacation although one that is very painful. Perhaps I’ll catch up on my reading between my four-hour naps.

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  • Dawn

    Strep throat can be very difficult to discern in children. My son had what I thought was the symptoms of a viral infection, so I tried to comfort him at home, only to allow what was clearly a bacterial infection take hold of his body and make him very sick for over a month even after antibiotics.

    The problem was similar to yours, I was unaware of anyone who had it. The daycare he went to once a week is supposed to inform parents of contagious infections that require medical treatment, they never bothered to call us, and since he only went one day a week, we had no way of knowing there were cases of strep going through his classroom. I felt terrible for not treating him correctly sooner, but I was really pissed at the center for not taking the two seconds to call us at home.

    He no longer goes there – I took him out because of this incident. It’s very irresponsible for people to expose others to contagious diseases – nowhere is it more rampant than in daycare centers where parents think nothing of dropping their sick kids off at school.

    A miserable child who is clearly ill should be at home being taken care of by a loved one.

    I hope you feel better very soon PT. PS – Take all of your medication, strep can be hard to get rid of.

  • Now that I’m delirious on drugs, I have to say I like myself better off of drugs (and am probably a better dancer that way).

    Seriously, strep is very hard to diagnose in children and the other complication I have, ear infections in both ears, is also difficult to discern in children.

    The fever is the key element and that is why I thought it was important to write about it. You have a fever over 101, see a doctor. I knew I had a serious fever and I didn’t need a thermometer to check.

    Also that if your child hadn’t been treated with antibiotics, the contagious state would have lasted 2-3 weeks after symptoms had passed. That was a real eye-opener.

    Strep throat isn’t something one should be macho about.