Strep Throat’s Connection to PANDAS

Strep Throat’s Connection to PANDAS

Strep throat is caused by a streptococcus bacterial infection, called noninvasive group A streptococcus, of primarily the tonsils and throat. It is highly contagious and spreads from moisture droplets by sneezes or coughs from an infected person. It is also possible to get it from touching surfaces and transferring the bacteria to the mouth, eyes, or nose. Therefore, it is crucial to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread.

For adults, strep occurs most often in the early spring and winter. Strep throat is very common in children ages 5-to-15. The infection can happen any time of year for youth and is most often contracted in crowded settings like schools, childcare, and recreation centers. For children, the bacteria in strep A can lead to more serious conditions, such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and neurological conditions, called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections).

How Does Strep Throat Differ from a Sore Throat from a Cold?

How can you tell if you have a typical sore throat from a cold or strep throat? It is essential to differentiate between the two as strep throat requires treatment from a doctor, while a sore throat from a cold can be managed with rest and over-the-counter remedies. Strep throat is diagnosed by taking a swab of the throat. Some people may be a carrier of strep but not have any symptoms.

A sore throat from a cold is usually milder than strep and tends to improve within a few days without any specific treatment. A sore throat from a cold is usually accompanied by nasal congestion, coughing, and sneezing. Strep throat is more severe and often presents with severe throat pain, difficulty swallowing, and swollen tonsils with white patches.

Symptoms of Strep Throat

  • Sore throat that starts suddenly and looks red
  • Pain swallowing
  • Red and tender tonsils
  • Fever
  • White spots or streaks on the tonsils
  • Petechiae or red spots on the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes on the sides and front of the neck

Complications from Strep Throat

If sore throat symptoms seem more flu-like, it may be scarlet fever. Symptoms include a sore throat plus a high temperature, body aches, large swollen neck glands, red cheeks, white coating on the tongue, and a rash that includes small raised bubbly, bumps on the chest and abdomen. Call your physician and discuss the symptoms because though rare, scarlet fever can lead to complications such as rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can develop after a strep throat infection and cause joint pain and damage to the heart.

Other severe complications of strep throat are PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) and PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections).

PANS is a clinical diagnosis encompassing a range of neuropsychiatric symptoms that appear suddenly in children. Conversely, PANDAS is a specific subset of PANS that occurs following a streptococcal infection. In PANDAS, the body’s immune response to the strep infection mistakenly attacks the brain’s basal ganglia, leading to symptoms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), tics, anxiety, and other behavioral changes.

It is important to note that not all cases of strep throat lead to PANS or PANDAS, but the presence of strep infection can trigger these conditions in susceptible individuals. Early recognition and appropriate treatment of strep throat are crucial to prevent the development of PANS or PANDAS in exposed children. If your child develops a sudden onset of the symptoms mentioned above, contact a doctor immediately. Resources for PANS and PANDAS include the following:

  1. Neuroimmune Foundation
  2. PANDAS Physician Network
  3. PANDAS Network
  4. Child Mind Institute

Even if PANS or PANDAS isn’t what is going on with your child, these symptoms may be the result of autoimmunity and inflammation, which can impact the central nervous system. Treatments can restore immune system function and reduce inflammation. The sooner you act, the sooner your child will experience relief, and the better the outcome. Left untreated, these conditions can cause long-term health and developmental problems.

Natural Support for Strep Throat Therapy

Strep throat is a painful and uncomfortable condition that can lead to serious complications if untreated. Antibiotics are the most common course of treatment. Typically, a person is contagious with strep for 48 hours after taking an antibiotic. If left completely untreated, a person may eventually feel better within a week but be contagious for as long as three weeks.

While you are being treated for strep throat by your physician, natural home remedies can help reduce the symptoms and pain. Here are some suggestions beyond staying hydrated and resting:

  1. Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root is known for its soothing properties for sore throats. The herb contains a high concentration of mucilage, a sticky substance that forms a protective layer over irritated tissues. When consumed as a tea or in lozenge form, marshmallow root coats the throat, relieving pain and inflammation. Additionally, it helps to lubricate the throat, reducing dryness and discomfort. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help to calm down swollen tissues, further alleviating sore throat symptoms.

  1. Herbal Throat Sprays and Teas

Many throat sprays and medicinal teas contain botanicals like licorice, oregano, thyme, echinacea, sage, slippery elm, and barberry with bioactive polyphenols that may reduce pain and inflammation. In vitro studies show that these plants may contain antimicrobials that inhibit S. pyogenes biofilm formation, the bacteria that causes strep throat.

  1. Green Tea

Beyond the soothing effects of hot green tea, studies show it may help relieve sore throats. Green tea contains an antimicrobial compound, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), that may prevent biofilm formation and some virulence genes expression of S. pyogenes.

  1. Honey

Honey’s antimicrobial properties are well known, which may help with body fight infection and relieve pain. A study of patients undergoing tonsillectomies showed that honey consumed three times a day reduced throat pain and resulted in less waking time at night while recovering. Remember that honey should not be given to children under age one because of the risk of botulism.

  1. Coconut Oil

Animal studies show that coconut oil may reduce inflammation. Add a teaspoon to warm drinks, soups and let a spoonful melt down the throat to soothe the pain.

When a sore throat persists or becomes severe, it may need treatment. Complications can arise from strep throat that only a doctor can diagnose. Please contact a doctor right away if you believe you have strep throat. Learn more about Restoration Healthcare’s treatment of complex chronic illness, such as PANS and PANDA.