Mono and Strep Throat 101
Virtually all of us have experienced that familiar raw, scratchy pain or discomfort in the back of the throat. Many times, this stems from dry winter air, allergies or drainage associated with the common cold. Sometimes, however, sore throats stem from specific viral or bacterial infections that can lead to serious consequences if left untreated.
Caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, strep throat can cause pain and inflammation in the throat. When it’s treated with antibiotics, strep usually clears within about a week. If left untreated, however, patients may develop serious complications, including rheumatic fever, inflammation of the kidneys, scarlet fever, and peritonsillar abscess.
In the beginning strep throat symptoms start relatively mild. After a few days, however, patients may exhibit the following telltale symptoms:
- Pain lasting longer than 48 hours
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes
- A fever exceeding 101 F
- A rash
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breathing problems
- Joint pain
- Discolored urine
- Spots in the back of the throat
If you or your child exhibits any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor, who can conduct swab tests to check for strep.
Transmitted by saliva, mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). There’s no effective medical treatment other than rest and plenty of fluids, and most people recover fully within a few weeks. That said, in certain situations complications can arise, so it’s important to watch for specific symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Mono
Mono has an exceptionally long incubation period, spanning four to six weeks. Once it begins to spread throughout the body, affected individuals usually experience the following:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen tonsils
- Skin rash
- Soft, swollen spleen
Sometimes mono can lead to serious complications, including thrombocytopenia, anemia, heart problems, encephalitis, meningitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and breathing problems associated with swollen tonsils. For these reasons, it’s important to seek medical attention if you or your child experiences any of the following:
- Breathing problems
- Trouble swallowing
- Easy bruising or bleeding from the gums
- Abdominal pain
- Severe headaches
- Chest pain
- Severe weakness in the extremities
Although there’s no treatment for mono, doctors can diagnose the illness by testing for heterophile antibodies. They can then use this information to treat any dangerous or uncomfortable symptoms associated with the infection.