What is the difference between strep and a sore throat?
Not all sore throats are strep but all strep certainly causes sore throats. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to spot the difference between a good ole sore throat and strep throat. A sore throat is often caused by a viral infection such as a cold, while strep throat is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus. A sore throat will also go away on its own but strep throat won’t.
What are the warning signs of strep?
While strep can happen to both children and adults, ENT doctors most often see it in children. If you have a simple sore throat you’re most likely to also have symptoms of a cold such as a cough, runny nose, or sneezing. A strep throat, on the other hand, can cause,
- Inflamed, swollen, and red tonsils
- White or red spots on the roof of the mouth or tonsils
- A severe sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Fever (typically over 101 F)
How is strep treated?
Since strep is caused by a bacterial infection the only course of action is to treat the problem with a round of antibiotics. Since strep throat can cause complications it’s important that you seek treatment for strep as soon as you notice symptoms. Once starting the antibiotics, you should also begin to feel better within 48 hours (but don’t stop taking your medication just because you feel better!). It’s also important to rest and stay hydrated during this time to help your body heal.
If you are experiencing symptoms of strep throat, it’s always best to play it safe and call your ENT doctor. We would be happy to listen to your symptoms over the phone to determine whether you need to come into the office for an evaluation.
The Recovery Process
It typically takes about two weeks for both children and adults to make a full recovery after a tonsillectomy. You may feel tired and easily fatigued for the first few days after surgery. Other symptoms such as ear and throat pain are common and can last up to two weeks. If you find that your symptoms are getting worse or aren’t improving after 4-5 days, you should speak with your ENT doctor.
Get Pain Under Control
Pain management is an important topic for our patients undergoing a tonsillectomy, as the pain that proceeds from this surgery can be pretty intense in the very beginning. Your ENT doctor will provide you with a strong pain reliever to help ease discomfort during the first few days. You may switch to ibuprofen if your pain is starting to lessen; however, it’s important to avoid aspirin for at least two weeks after your tonsillectomy.
It is very important that you stay hydrated and drink a lot of fluids. A good rule of thumb is to consume one cup of water an hour. If your urine is pale in color, this is a sign that you are drinking enough water. While you can eat what you want after your surgery, you may not feel very hungry at first. Don’t worry, your appetite will return after a couple of days.
Your Diet Post-Tonsillectomy
Most people worry about what they can and can’t eat post-surgery but the answer is, anything you want. You can’t hurt your throat by eating certain foods; however, you may want to ease back into your diet by starting with soft foods such as yogurt, rice, mashed potatoes, and ice pops.
Give Yourself Time to Rest
Most people will feel too fatigued to go about their normal activities. Most children will return to school within a week and resume full activities within two weeks. Most adults can return to work within 10 days after a tonsillectomy. You will want to rest as much as possible and avoid most activities for at least the first 48 hours after your surgery.
If you have any concerns about your upcoming tonsillectomy, or you have questions about your at-home instructions after you return home, know that your ENT doctor is always here to provide you with the answers, care, and support you need. Don’t hesitate to call with any questions or concerns you might have while you heal from your tonsillectomy.
Signs and symptoms of earwax buildup can include:
- muffled hearing
- sudden or partial loss of hearing
- itchy ears
- tinnitus, which is ringing in the ear that won't go away
- feeling fullness in the ear
Can You Use a Q-tip to Remove Earwax?
It's important to know how to remove earwax safely. Most people believe the only over-the-counter treatment for earwax removal is using a q-tip inside the ear canal.
However, using a q-tip within the ear is not a good way to remove earwax and can lead to injury or infection.
In fact, according to the Journal of Pediatrics and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, between 1996 and 2010, there were over 263,000 children treated in the emergency room for cotton-tip applicator-related injuries.
Safest Methods for Removing Earwax at Home
If you're planning on removing earwax at home, purchasing an earwax removal kit from your local drug store can be a safe option.
Earwax removal kits have detailed instructions on how to use them, making it easy for adults to use on their children or on themselves. These kits already come equipped with a rubber bulb ear syringe and ear drops.
These kits work by softening the earwax within the ear canal by placing drops in your ear twice daily. Then, the bulb is used to irrigate out any remaining earwax.
Other Natural Methods
Natural oils, such as baby oil, olive oil, and mineral oil can also be used to soften earwax and in place of earwax kit drops. These oils are typically non-irritating to the ear. After placing a couple of drops in the affected ear, you can lie the ear facedown on a towel to catch all the draining earwax.
Other possible solutions that can help remove earwax include
- saline solution
- hydrogen peroxide
- vinegar and rubbing alcohol mixture
What is Cholesteatoma?
Cholesteatoma occurs when a large collection of skin cells occur deep within the ear. This growth of skin is where cholesteatoma gets its name, toma being the word for swelling or tumor. Fortunately, cholesteatoma presents as a non-cancerous cyst.
Cholesteatoma can be either genetic, known as congenital cholesteatoma, or develop later in life, known as acquired cholesteatoma. Both are caused by keratinizing cells in the temporal bone. Abnormal growths usually present in the middle ear behind the eardrum.
Signs and Symptoms
A cholesteatoma usually only affects one ear.
- Fluid drainage in the ear
- Foul-smelling drainage
- Feeling pressure or fullness in the ear
- Hearing loss
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the face
Developing congenital cholesteatoma is incredibly rare. However, it is possible to acquire it in adulthood.
- Re-occurring middle ear infections
- Poor eustachian tube function
- Being of Caucasian descent (incidence is rarest in Indian Asians)
- Being born with craniofacial syndromes such as cleft lip
A doctor will take a look inside your ear using an otoscope to determine if you have cholesteatoma. They can see the cholesteatoma, which often looks like a cyst made of skin cells or a mass of blood vessels.
If the cholesteatoma is too small to be detected, a CT scan may be ordered.
What are the Treatment Options?
Treatment for cholesteatoma often involves surgery for severe cases. However, if caught early, it can be treated through a round of antibiotics, ear drops, and cleaning your ear carefully.
The goal of the treatment is to reduce the chances of an infection occurring, reduce inflammation, and drain the ear of the cyst.
What If It Goes Untreated?
Surgery is perhaps the best way to treat cholesteatomas that won't go away, which is, unfortunately, quite common. Cholesteatomas tend to grow bigger and can eventually lead to:
- Destruction of surrounding tissues and bones
- Permanent facial nerve damage, including numbness
- Severe infections such as meningitis (although rare)
- Chronic ear infections
- Swelling of the inner ear
While medication won’t treat the nasal deformity, if you are only dealing with mild symptoms then your ENT doctor may simply recommend taking medications to help better control the symptoms you are experiencing. Decongestants are one type of medication that can help reduce swelling within the nasal cavity, making it easier to breathe.
Another medication that is often prescribed is an antihistamine. This is more common if you are also dealing with allergy symptoms that impact your ability to breathe. Those patients exhibiting symptoms such as nasal congestion or a runny nose may benefit most from this type of medication.
If someone is dealing with a severely deviated septum that blocks or partially blocks a nostril, or if symptoms aren’t properly controlled with medication, then surgery may be the best option.
Surgery is the only way to actually repair a deviated septum. This procedure, known as a septoplasty, is performed by an ENT specialist who will make small incisions within the septum to reposition and realign the cartilage. In some instances, your ENT doctor will also instruct as to whether or not a rhinoplasty (“a nose job”) is needed to improve the overall shape and size of the nose after the deviated septum is repositioned.
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