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Have I got the throat lurgey?
July 30, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend has just been diagnosed with a severe bacterial throat infection. How likely is it that I also have it?

My boyfriend has had low-level symptoms (a dry/sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, feeling generally run down) for (he says) a few months now. Today he finally visited the doctor and was told that he has a severe throat infection, bad enough that he has to stay home from work for a week and take a 10-day course of antibiotics (penicillin).

From what little I know about infections, this suggests he has either some form of strep or a bacterial infection. His doctor has advised him that we need to stop kissing (aw), but I'm concerned that the length of time between (possible) contraction and diagnosis and the fact that we were together (and all that entails) all last weekend means that I might already have it (and, if untreated, could possibly give it back to him).

In myself I feel mostly fine. I have occasionally woken up with a sore throat over the last few months, which I put down to the dry winter air, but that's all. No fever, no pain.

I'm 90% sure I'm going to go to a doctor anyway just to be sure, but I'd find it helpful in the right now if anyone out there knows the likelihood of this being A Thing.

So, my questions: how likely is it that I have already contracted an infection from my boyfriend? Is it possible for us to pass a throat infection back and forth if we don't treat it properly? If I don't have it, how can I prevent myself from catching it during his treatment (besides the no kissing thing)?
posted by fight or flight to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
 
how likely is it that I have already contracted an infection from my boyfriend? Is it possible for us to pass a throat infection back and forth if we don't treat it properly? If I don't have it, how can I prevent myself from catching it during his treatment (besides the no kissing thing)?

If you don't have any symptoms, you don't need to be treated and you don't need to see a doctor.

If you get symptoms, then go and get checked out for strep.

In the meantime, wash your hands frequently.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:15 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


See a doctor, have a throat culture done. One of my children had strep I did not know about for a while because he was not really sick, just a little tired, but a throat culture done by the school nurse detected it. if you don't have the infection, wash your hands, don't use the same glass etc as you would to avoid getting any infection.
posted by mermayd at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a boyfriend who infected me with strep several times even though he had no symptoms and a throat culture for strep tested negative. My doctor finally just gave him a prescription for antibiotics even with the negative throat culture, and I stopped getting strep. Turns out something like 10% of the population can be a carrier for strep throat with no symptoms of their own, and it can be hard to get a good throat culture from them as well.

Like treehorn+bunny says, see a doctor if you get sick. If your boyfriend gets sick again after a round of antibiotics, see a doctor because you might be a carrier, considering that he's been sick for months and you're not. If he gets better and neither of you get sick again after that, then don't worry about it.
posted by adiabat at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2012


FYI: the rapid strep test is pretty good but imperfect, like most tests, so that is why it is not recommended that you get tested unless you are at high risk for strep (like symptoms of possible strep, or if your boyfriend had recurrent strep despite antibiotics, such as the case adiabat mentioned). False positive tests can happen. Confirmatory testing helps. Check out the Centor criteria to see what your chances of having strep are (you'll need to be able to see your tonsils, or have someone else see them, to check these).

The main reasons to try to identify and treat strep infections specifically (aside from trying to shorten the duration of the sore throat) is because they can cause complications (rarely) such as post-strep glomerulonephritis (a kidney problem), rheumatic heart disease, etc.

Out of curiosity, did your boyfriend get a mono test? Having several months of such symptoms makes mono sound like a possibility.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:16 PM on July 30, 2012


treehorn+bunny, I just looked up mono and realised that he told me he has been diagnosed with it (or with glandular fever, as it is more commonly known in the UK) a couple of times when he was younger. From further reading it doesn't seem possible that you can get it more than once, so maybe he has been misdiagnosed? Is there a way we can tell this is mono rather than strep?

Either way, I'll keep an eye on him and if things don't improve in a few weeks I'll suggest we both get tested again.
posted by fight or flight at 3:26 PM on July 30, 2012


You can absolutely have recurrent "mono" if the Epstein-Barr virus is reactivated (usually as a sequela to another viral infection). His doctor should be able to order bloodwork to measure his levels of EBV antigens.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:37 PM on July 30, 2012


For mono we usually use the Monospot test (it's actually a test for antibodies your body produces in response to the EBV infection). It is a test only meant to be used when you have symptoms of active infection. Unfortunately the sensitivity of the test isn't great, so if you have a negative test you might still have mono. This isn't a huge deal since there isn't really any treatment for mono, but it is nice to get a positive test because then you can go "aha, this explains why you feel like crap, we're not missing something else going on here."

Your question about mono reactivation is a little outside my specialty, but I tried looking it up and sources say that reactivation happens but is usually, not always, asymptomatic in people with competent immune systems.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:51 PM on July 30, 2012


Not to say you should run to the doctor, but as a data point, I have had strep without knowing it (antibodies on titer), and it resulted in guttate psoriasis (and psoriatic arthritis).

The strep may not have been truly asymptomatic (I could have thought it was allery-throat), but I never had that must-go-to-doc feeling I've had with other culture-positive strep.
posted by Pax at 7:32 AM on July 31, 2012


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