Viruses cause most sore throats and throat infections. Children are predisposed to throat infections, especially during the winter months when they are in close quarters. Like the flu, viral throat infections are not treatable with antibiotics, however, bacterial throat infections are quickly remedied with the proper antibiotic. Many sore throats are simply symptoms of an infection elsewhere in the body, such as the nose and sinuses, but serious illnesses can develop from a throat infection.
Strep throat is the most common bacterial throat infection. It is transmitted from person to person through contact or inhalation of the bacteria while in the presence of an infected person. Symptoms of the infection do not appear until two to four days after exposure to the bacteria. The National Library of Medicine lists the following bacteria as also causing throat infections: arcanobacterium, corynebacterium, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Ghonorrhoeae.
The symptoms of throat infections are the same whether the cause is bacterial or viral. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include difficulty swallowing, throat pain, swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, rash, headache and fever. Children sometimes have stomachaches and vomiting in addition to the other symptoms. In order to treat the throat, a doctor must first determine if the cause is bacterial. This can only be verified through lab testing.
Bacterial or Viral
In addition to visually examining the throat, doctors must take a swab from your throat. This throat culture is sent to a laboratory where technicians identify what bacteria or virus you have. Newer tests are available that give results immediately. The rapid antigen test allows doctors to check the swab for common bacteria. If the throat is swollen and breathing difficulties are apparent, a chest x-ray may be taken to be sure the lungs are not infected as well.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial throat infections. Without antibiotics the infection may worsen. Antibiotics help to clear up the infection quickly. A quick resolution to the infection means that other people may not be exposed to the contagion. Throat infections make it painful to swallow and talk, so pain relievers are also given. Rest is recommended in order to allow the body's natural defenses to fight the bacteria.
The prevention for acquiring bacterial throat infections is the same as for all other contagious conditions. Wash your hands with soap. This easy preventative removes the contagious bacteria from your hands where it may come in contact with entry ways into your body such as your nose, eyes and mouth. Do not allow others to drink from your cup or eat from your fork.