A bacterial throat infection is an infection of the throat associated with the presence of bacterial organisms like Staphylococcus. Throat infections, also known by the term “pharyngitis,” can also be caused by viruses and fungi. When a patient reports with symptoms of an infection, the doctor will usually want to take a swab for analysis to find out what is causing the infection so the most appropriate treatment can be provided. In the case of a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the preferred method of treatment.
People can contract bacterial throat infections in a variety of ways, especially if their immune systems are compromised and they have trouble fighting off infectious organisms. Some common symptoms include sore throat, tenderness, swelling in the lymph nodes around the throat, and hoarseness. Patients may also have trouble eating if the throat is especially painful, and bad breath can develop as a result of the presence of numerous bacteria. The throat and tongue may also appear coated in a bacterial infection, as opposed to a viral infection.
Streptococcus is a common culprit behind bacterial throat infection and sore throats are often assumed to be “strep throat” or “strep,” a reference to these bacteria. Numerous other organisms can be involved. Usually, a broad spectrum antibiotic will address the issue, but if the patient's throat does not appear to clear up, a culture can be taken again to check for antibiotic resistance and see if another medication should be used. Treatment can also include drinking warm fluids to stay hydrated and using lozenges to ease soreness and inflammation in the throat.
Many people experience bacterial throat infections at some point during their lives. Low grade infections can often be fought off without medication in people who are healthy, eating a balanced diet, and have an opportunity to rest when they detect the early symptoms. If a sore throat does not clear up within several days or the symptoms grow worse, the patient should seek treatment from a doctor, as the infection may be more aggressive or could involve organisms that will not stop colonizing the throat without the use of antibiotic medications.
While a person has an active bacterial throat infection, the patient is contagious. The mouth should be covered when sneezing or coughing, and shared utensils should be avoided. It is also advisable for people to wash their hands regularly while they have a throat infection, to avoid passing bacteria by handling shared surfaces or shaking hands. Contact with people known to be immunocompromised should be avoided, as they may be less able to fight the infection.