Strep throat is very contagious.
It is caused by a bacterial infection and spreads through close contact or through droplets from coughing or sneezing.
Practicing good hygiene can help prevent strep throat from spreading to others in your family.
No one wants to get a cold, but you especially want to stay away from strep throat. This illness is not only very contagious, but it also can take a toll on your health if not treated properly, leading to issues such as kidney inflammation or scarlet fever.
Strep throat is caused by a particular strain of bacteria called group A Streptococcus (group A strep). Doctors can test for strep throat and prescribe antibiotics in the event of a diagnosis.
Once a course of antibiotics begins, it takes about 24 hours for strep throat to no longer be contagious. So it's important to know the signs of strep to get prompt treatment. They include a painful sore throat, swollen tonsils or glands, fever, rash and difficulty swallowing.
If someone in your household is exhibiting these symptoms, or has tested positive for strep, you should take the following precautions:
Have everybody practice good hand-washing techniques. One of the best ways to stop the spread of germs is for everyone—healthy or sick—to wash their hands thoroughly. That means using warm water and plenty of soap, and not just for a quick scrub—aim for a minimum of 20 seconds of lathering before rinsing completely and using a clean towel to dry the hands. In a pinch, you can use hand sanitizer, but wash your hands at the first opportunity.
Keep your distance. Close contact with an infected person can increase your risk of contracting strep.
Ensure coughing and sneezing stays covered up. Strep also spreads through droplets emitted when someone coughs or sneezes. Make sure your strep patient has plenty of tissues on hand to use or at least employs the so-called vampire technique: coughing or sneezing into the crook of the elbow, not the hand. It's especially important to teach this maneuver to kids, who can be more susceptible to strep.
Clean commonly used surfaces. Those droplets can contaminate countertops, doorknobs, light switches and other objects; surfaces can also become germy if touched by someone with strep who hasn't washed their hands properly.
Go hands free—on your face. If you're cleaning up after your strep patient and haven't had time to wash your hands, make sure you don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. That can give strep bacteria the chance to infiltrate your immune system.
Don't share your stuff. Utensils, lip balm, food, drinks — those are all conduits for strep bacteria to travel from one person to another. Wash whatever can be washed and immediately dispose of any uneaten food so it isn't inadvertently consumed by someone else.
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