CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – This month, we’re bringing you stories to help you stay healthy during the winter in our Healthy U series. One of the most common illnesses among children this time of year is strep throat, but adults can get it as well.  

Many of you might be wondering how to notice the signs and how to cope with it if you or your child gets it.

Doctors are expecting fewer people to have strep throat this year because wearing a mask in public is now a requirement, but people will still catch the illness and it’s important to know the signs. 

Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Group A streptococcus. The infection is spread through direct contact of mucus or sores with someone who has it. 

Courtesy: “Roper St. Francis Healthcare/YouTube”

“If somebody gets spits in your mouth, you drink after them, you talk very close, you touch your hands a lot and touch your mouth a lot, you can get strep throat,” Dr. Joe Matusic, Pediatrician at ABC Pediatrics said.

If you’ve never had strep throat, you’re lucky. Imagine the worst possible sore throat where you can’t eat or drink anything without pain. You get pinhead-sized pink spots in your throat and it feels like sandpaper whenever you swallow.

Courtesy: “Children’s Health/YouTube”

There are as many as 50 different strains of strep so it’s important to know the signs so you can be tested and treated. 

“Classically you get a headache, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in your neck. You might get some body aches, some chills and fever is very common,” Dr. Matusic said.

Often times, parents don’t know what to look for when their child may have strep. They think their child may just have allergies, but Dr. Matusic recommends parents use a flashlight and check their child’s throat for to get a sense for what’s normal and what’s not.

“Once you see red over top of the tonsils, got pus on them, you see little spots on the top of their mouth, something is probably wrong and need to call your doctor,” Dr. Matusic said. Kid’s tonsils are also bigger, so they tend to suffer more with it and get sicker with it.”

Because it’s so contagious, three to five days on antibiotics is recommended. While it can go away without treatment doctors don’t recommend that.

“Strep throat can turn into an abscess in the throat. It can also turn into rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a heart condition that can severely hurt you. It’s the number one cause of heart disease on the planet,” Dr. Matusic said.

Adults normally have the infection several times in their life. 

“Let’s say you get strain one. You might get immunity to two, three and four, but you’re still not immune to strain 95,” Dr. Matusic said.

Doctors recommend people take pain and fever reducing medicine such as ibuprofen, as well as topical pain-relieving medicine like lozenges, hard candy or saltwater gargles. Most importantly, get some rest. 

If you are diagnosed with strep throat, you normally do not need a follow-up unless you or your child develop complications. You can check out all of our “Healthy U” tips here.