Strep Throat in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Throat and tonsils

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes a sudden, severe sore throat and fever. Strep throat, which is caused by bacteria called streptococcus, is treated with antibiotics. A strep test is usually necessary to tell if the sore throat is caused by strep bacteria. Treatment can help ease symptoms and may prevent future problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Strep throat can spread to others until 24 hours after you begin taking antibiotics. During this time, you should stay home from school and try to avoid contact with other people, especially infants and children. Do not sneeze or cough on others, and wash your hands often. Keep your drinking glass and eating utensils separate from those of others, and wash these items well in hot, soapy water.
  • Gargle with warm salt water at least once each hour to help reduce swelling and make your throat feel better. Use 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Try an over-the-counter anesthetic throat spray or throat lozenges, which may help relieve throat pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may help soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help your throat feel better.
  • Eat soft solids and drink plenty of clear liquids. Flavoured ice pops, ice cream, scrambled eggs, gelatin dessert, and sherbet may also soothe the throat.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Do not smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to the air in your bedroom. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain becomes much worse on one side of your throat.
  • You notice changes in your voice.
  • You have trouble opening your mouth.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have increased trouble swallowing.
  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • Your fever returns after several days of normal temperature.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have a severe earache.
  • You cough up discoloured or bloody mucus.
  • You have nausea or vomiting.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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