Sore Throats Don’t Always Point to Strep

When you suffer a sore, scratchy throat that swells up and is accompanied by a high fever, you may jump to the conclusion that strep throat is the culprit. After all, strep is a common infection for kids and adults and can create days of misery. However, recent studies show that these conditions can often be a more serious infection, which could be deadly if not properly treated.

Young Adults

When young adults of high school and college age suffer symptoms similar to strep, a more common cause can be a bacterium called fusobacterium necrophorum. This bacteria, recently examined in a study comprising over 300 college students, was found to be present in 20 percent of subjects, whereas strep was only present in about 10 percent.

The illness, which is especially prevalent in teens, presents many of the same symptoms as strep. These symptoms can include:

  • Sudden onset of severe sore throat
  • Red, swollen tonsils, glands and back of throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and painful vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rashes
  • White patches or spots at the back of the throat

More Dangerous than Strep

Fusobacterium is far more dangerous than strep and can, in about 1 out of every 400 cases, create a condition called Lemierre’s syndrome. In this case the infection moves beyond the throat and gets into the bloodstream, where it forms a clot in the jugular vein. The illness has about a five percent mortality rate.

Fuso can travel and infect the brain, lungs, liver and joints of the patient. Unlike strep, there is no ready and easy test for fuso. This makes the illness very difficult to diagnose. It was nearly eliminated many years ago thanks to routine antibiotics, but has resurged due to antibiotic resistance in the past decade.

Easy to Treat

The good news is that fuso is easy to treat. In general, all that is needed to take care of the infection is a prescription for penicillin. Doctors have found that while fuso is more common than strep in young people, with as many as 25 percent of strep cases actually being fuso, antibiotics can take care of the problem.

In general, strep gets better within a few days even without the use of antibiotics. Fuso, on the other hand, gets worse with time. If normal strep symptoms get worse or are accompanied by the following, seek medical attention:

  • Swelling on one side of the neck
  • Soaking night sweats
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Pus on the tonsils

In the end, the lesson to take away is that you should never take signs of illness lightly. If you experience a severe sore throat, especially when it is accompanied by the symptoms above, it is vital to be checked out by a qualified ear, nose and throat doctor to have your condition assessed. A simple course of antibiotics can be the difference between getting on the mend or severe illness that can even result in death.

If you are in the Atlanta region and think you may have an infection in your throat, we are here to help. Give us a call today!

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