Staph infections are common. They affect almost everyone at some point in their life. If you have had one or several staph infections, then it’s very likely that you’ve experienced sore throats. A sore throat is not necessarily bad; however, if your throat becomes infected with bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans (strep), it may cause a sore throat and other problems such as coughing up blood and difficulty breathing.
A sore throat is usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (S. mutans).
These bacteria grow best in warm, moist environments such as the mouth and nose. When these bacteria get into the airways, they multiply rapidly and produce toxins which cause inflammation of the tissues around them. The body tries to fight off these invaders by producing antibodies against S. mutans. However, these antibodies do not always work well because the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the immune system attacks itself and the person develops a sore throat.
The most common types of staph infections are:
Gram-negative bacilli (such as strep) Gram positive bacteria (such as E. coli) mycobacteria (such as tuberculosis)
Other types of staph bacteria have also been known to infect the throat. These bacteria cause upper respiratory tract infections, food poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, skin and soft tissue infections, impetigo, scalded skin syndrome, and wound infections.
Staphylococcal sore throats are most common in children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65. People who have weakened immune systems, such as people living with AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are also at greater risk of developing staph throat.
In most cases, a sore throat is not dangerous if you take good care of yourself. Here are some tips that can help you feel better:
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Eat soft, bland foods that are easy to swallow, such as pasta, mashed potatoes, and yogurt. Avoid acidic or spicy foods such as oranges, tomatoes, and peppers which can irritate your throat.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve).
Do not drink alcohol or smoke since these products can dry out your mouth and throat.
If you feel very nauseous and vomit, rinse your mouth out with water and lie down with your head elevated.
Rest as much as you can so that your body can fight off the infection.
Cortisporin is another over-the-counter product which helps prevent staph from infecting scrapes and cuts. It can also be helpful in preventing a staph infection from spreading throughout your body.
Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently during the day, especially before touching any open sores or wounds.
Wash towels and bedding often. Bedsores can become infected more easily when you have a staph infection.
Avoid contact with people who have colds or other contagious illnesses since staph bacteria are easily spread from person-to-person.
When to See a Doctor
If you do not notice an improvement in your symptoms after 3-5 days of self care, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
You should see your doctor right away if you develop a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or chills, difficulty breathing, significant weight loss, redness in your throat, or pus coming from your neck. These can be signs of a more serious medical problem.
A doctor can determine if you have a staph infection by swabbing an infected area of your body and testing the sample in a lab. A diagnosis can also be made by looking at the inside of your mouth.
If you have been diagnosed with a staph infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics which are taken by mouth or applied directly to your skin as a cream or ointment. Treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of infection.
For example, your health care provider may give you an antibiotic such as penicillin or amoxicillin.
If you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor may instead prescribe erythromycin or tetracycline. If you have a severe staph infection (sepsis), you may require hospitalization.
In the hospital, health care providers can give you intravenous (IV) antibiotics through a needle inserted into your veins.
If you have a deep neck or spinal infection, your doctor may perform spinal taps to reduce the pressure on your brain and spinal cord. Antibiotics may be injected into your spinal column.
Occasionally, surgery may be necessary to remove pus-filled abscesses or lesions. After the infected material is removed, antibiotic treatment can be given in an effort to prevent the development of staph bacteria which may still be living in your body.
In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a vaccine that can prevent you from developing a specific type of infection caused by staph bacteria.
The prognosis for a staph infection is good if it is diagnosed and treated early. Most people do well and make a full recovery.
Severe or chronic cases may result in damage to the heart, brain, or other organs.
Staph bacteria are very resilient and have developed resistance to many of the common antibiotics used to treat them. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a combination of drugs in an effort to eliminate the infection.
Sometimes, staph bacteria become resistant to all available antibiotics and medical science is unable to offer a cure. These cases are extremely difficult to treat and are often fatal.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome by GK Patel, AY Finlay – American journal of clinical dermatology, 2003 – Springer
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