strep throat

Strep Throat: How Serious Is It?

“Mom, my throat really hurts”, “Daddy, I have a bad stomach ache” these are all things that most parents will hear many times from their kiddos. Not every booboo or tummy ache warrants a trip to the ER, however we have to be aware of what could lurk around the corner.  Though not every case of strep throat presents the same way or with all symptoms, some of the more common symptoms can include but are not limited to a sore throat, stomachache, headache and fever. In addition to these, many children will also present with a fine, red “sandpaper like” rash.

A sore throat is one of the few ailments that no matter how you sit, how you walk or how you hold your mouth right that you cannot avoid the pain.

Many times sore throats cause pain with talking, eating and simply being. Your throat hurts to swallow and you are simply miserable.

Though not all sore throats require antibiotics or even medical attention, some can be quite serious.

As parents, teens, or even colleagues we have all heard the diagnosis of strep throat and cringed. An illness that requires a course of antibiotics and can be extremely contagious is never a good report.

Strep throat can be more than just a nuisance it can be extremely dangerous if left untreated. If treatment is not sought for this issue strep throat can develop into multiple medical conditions that can have long-term life threatening effects these include:

  • Acute Rheumatic Fever
  • Scarlet Fever
  • Acute Glomerular nephritis
  • Toxic Shock

And even a rare psychiatric disorder known as PANDAS-(Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Group A streptococci) can be associated with strep throat

Acute Rheumatic fever can occur 2-3 weeks after strep throat and can lead to heart and heart valve issues, joint pain and arthritis as well as central nervous system problems.

Scarlet Fever is a sand paper type rash that can develop from strep throat but fortunately has the same treatment as strep throat itself.

Acute Glomerular nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys that can lead to permanent damage if not treated.

Though toxic shock is a rare complication of strep throat it can lead to organ failure and ultimately death.

PANDAS is a new and controversial diagnosis that represents a group of pediatric patients who have worsening symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder or tic disorders that are worsened by Streptococcal infections.

Strep throat is a common ailment that is very easily treated however, if left untreated strep throat can become extremely dangerous and quite serious. Though not every sore throat or headache is indicative of strep throat they should raise an eyebrow and cause us to be a little more alert to the possibility of further complications.

Author: Alexis Medlin Passingham FNP | Penslow Medical Center

About the Author
Alexis Medlin Passingham is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Penslow Medical Center and a lifetime resident of the Topsail Area in North Carolina.