December 20, 2001
American Kidney Fund Warns Americans
Not to Ignore Sore Throats
- With families gathering for the holidays, they may be sharing more than
gifts and meals; they may be sharing strep. The American Kidney Fund (AKF)
is warning Americans not to ignore a sore throat, because the bacteria that
cause strep throat (streptococcus) can cause kidney damage. Strep throat is
quite contagious and is most common in winter or early spring. Anyone can
get strep throat, but it is most common among school-aged children.
AKF Chairman of Medical Affairs, Paul W. Crawford, MD, said, "For the most
part, ten days of antibiotic treatment combined with rest will take care of
strep throat. It is important to remember that viruses, not strep, cause
most sore throats, but you must be sure of the diagnosis. By doing a throat
culture or rapid strep test, your doctor can tell if strep is present."
Strep is spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, or by direct contact.
Hand washing and avoiding shared eating utensils or beverage containers can
stem the spread of strep.
People who are infected with strep can spread the disease to others until
twenty-four hours after beginning antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics must be
taken for a full ten days to ensure the infection is completely gone, even
though the patient may feel better after two or three days.
"When streptococcus attacks the kidneys, it inflames the tiny filtering
units causing a condition called glomerulonephritis," explained Dr.
Crawford. "Children with this complication will usually recover, but in
adults, it can lead to permanent kidney failure for which the only
treatments are kidney dialysis or kidney transplantation. Fortunately, it
does not happen often," Dr. Crawford noted.
Kidney disease may develop from one to six weeks after the sore throat
disappears. Signs of kidney disease include: Swelling of parts of the body;
lower back pain; burning or abnormal sensation during urination; bloody or
coffee-colored urine; changes in urination patterns, such as an increase in
frequency; puffiness around the eyes (especially in children); and, a
listless or tired feeling.
Dr. Crawford concluded, "Most sore throats are minor and go away after a few
days. A strep infection is different. It's a serious matter and it must be
treated accordingly in order to prevent a dangerous complication like kidney