If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had your children tested (and treated) for strep throat. But did you know that there is more than one kind of strep – and some can be fatal to infants? Streptococcal bacteria and streptococcus agalactiae can be identified by tests, and treated with antibiotics. Not to treat, is to take a big risk.


Many parents have been awakened in the middle of the night by whimpers of “Daddy, I don’t feel good” or “Mommy, my throat hurts.” Strep throat is not only common among children, it is also contracted by adults, in whom the symptoms can be more severe.

The most common symptoms of strep throat

•  High fever (more than 101°F)
•  Pain when you swallow
•  Sudden, severe sore throat
•  Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes
•  White or yellow spots on the back of a bright red throat

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms also occur with a common cold, or flu, or other respiratory infection. The good news is that because strep comes from the streptococcal (strep) bacteria, that it can be identified easily.

    There is a 10-minute test that can be done at your doctor’s office, or even in many pharmacies

    If the quick test is positive, then the patient will need treatment. If the quick test is negative, there is still a small chance that a culture test can reveal if the patient is positive for strep. The culture takes a few days to grow, so symptoms should be managed until then.

    Strep Throat Treatment

    Strep is usually treated with antibiotics. This not only allows the patient to recover faster, it also can prevent the bacteria from spreading to others. In addition, over-the-counter pain medications can be used to relieve symptoms such as high fever.

    It’s important to keep taking the antibiotics for the full period of time indicated. A person can start feeling better right away, and yet still have the bacteria which can either spread to others, or cause a relapse in the patient.

    Strep is airborne and is transmitted primarily through coughing and sneezing.
    There are unusual side effects which can occur due to strep. For example, guttate psoriasis is a skin condition that usually occurs on the trunk, arms or legs, although it can cover a large portion of the body. It looks like a series of tiny red dots. The trigger of the disease is usually a strep infection. The eruption of the skin lesions takes place about two to three weeks after a strep throat infection. 

    How is Group B Strep Different?

    Group B streptococcus (GBS), or streptococcus agalactiae, is a type of strep bacteria that is found in the digestive tract and birth canal in up to as many as 25% of pregnant women. This means the baby can be infected prior to birth, or during childbirth.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that GBS is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns. Any baby contracting GBS is at serious risk. GBS can cause miscarriages, stillborn births, handicaps lasting a lifetime and even death.

    July is International Group B Strep Awareness Month, so please continue reading!

    How to Prevent GBS

    The standard of care in many hospitals is that all pregnant women should be routinely tested for GBS at 35–37 weeks during each pregnancy. If the culture is positive for GBS, then IV antibiotics are prescribed and should be started when the water breaks or when labor starts. If you have less than four hours prior to delivery, you can receive a third-trimester penicillin shot. Make sure you inform your physician if you are allergic to penicillin.
    GBS can be deadly. Contact your physician or nurse midwife right away if:

    •  There is decreased or no fetal movement after the 20th week
    •  There is any unexplained fever

    If a woman who is GBS positive gives birth after receiving IV antibiotics, there is still a small risk. Breastfeeding can supply important antibodies to fight a wide range of infections. 

    And, as always, make sure people wash their hands before handling the baby.


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