Reasons You May Experience Recurring Strep Throat

Several million Americans are infected with strep throat annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A disease that develops from group A Streptococcus bacteria (group A strep), strep throat is most commonly diagnosed in children between 5 and 15 years old, but anyone is susceptible to getting the infection.

Though research into streptococcal diseases is only a few centuries old, our ancestors were well aware of strep-related infections. The publication Basic Biology to Clinical Manifestations notes that Hippocrates documented strep diseases in his writing during the fourth century B.C. He described a reddish skin infection known as erysipelas and also noted infections in the uterus. However, it wouldn't be until many years later in the 19th century when it is widely believed that Austrian surgeon Theodor Billroth first described streptococcal infections. Billroth's contemporary, French chemist Louis Pasteur, added further nuances — he showed that streptococcus was responsible for the disease causing the highest mortality rates among women and newborns during that time. Research into streptococci and the classification of strains intensified in the early twentieth century.

If you don't know anyone in your circle who has had strep throat, you've probably heard of some of the celebrities who have gotten it. People reports that singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus got hit with strep throat two weeks into her 2022 "Wonder World" tour, and four-time Grammy Award winner Lizzo came down with strep throat right at the onset of the pandemic, per the Times of India.

Strep throat symptoms

If your throat feels painfully sore and scratchy, it certainly could be strep throat. However, American Family Care notes that these could also be symptoms of other ailments. Strep is often confused with other types of throat infections related to viral infections, such as influenza. Like strep throat, it can be accompanied by a sore throat, fever, and headache. However, unlike strep throat, viral infections typically also cause a runny or stuffy nose and cough.

Another condition that strep throat can be confused with is tonsillitis, an inflammation of the tonsils caused by either a bacterial or viral infection. Similarly to strep throat, tonsillitis can also cause symptoms, such as a sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Besides a sore throat and difficulty swallowing, the most common symptoms of strep throat are swollen tonsils, fever, and headache. Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, and body aches. While strep throat is not typically dangerous, it can lead to complications if you don't receive timely treatment. These severe complications can include rheumatic fever, a serious condition that can damage the heart, kidneys, and other organs. Other complications that could occur from untreated strep throat include kidney inflammation, joint pain, and skin infections.

If you suspect that you have strep throat, a doctor can usually administer a simple throat swab test that can confirm whether you have a strep infection or a different health issue.

How to prevent strep throat recurrence

Recurring strep throat occurs when the group A streptococcus bacteria that causes the infection persists in the body after treatment. This can happen for several reasons, including the body's resistance to treatment, close contact with an infected person, and a weakened immune system. People who experience recurring strep throat episodes may also be carriers of the bacteria, meaning they carry it in their throat without manifesting symptoms, according to Banner Health.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent recurring strep throat. First, make sure to complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor, even if you start feeling better before the medication is finished. It's also wise to avoid close contact with people who are infected. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Additionally, Banner Health explains that boosting your immune system can help prevent recurring strep throat. You can do this by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Some people may also benefit from taking probiotics or supplements that support immune function.

While recurring strep throat can be frustrating, it's important to remember that it's a treatable condition. By following these prevention tips and working closely with your healthcare professional, you can reduce your risk of experiencing future episodes and enjoy a healthier, happier life.