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OH GOD STAY AWAY
January 1, 2013 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Housemate has strep throat. How can I avoid contracting it?

So one of my housemates found out today that he has strep -- he's been sick since Saturday. We've all been pretty good about washing hands, cleaning handles/doors/switches with those anti-microbial wipes, and trying to get the sick guy to stay out of the living room (or just blocking ourselves in our rooms when he comes out).

Any other tips for halting the spread of strep? Is he even virulent anymore?
posted by apip to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
 
Gargle with warm salt water three or so times a day.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 3:45 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I had strep throat, my doctor said I would definitely stop being contagious 2 days after I started taking antibiotics. WebMD says 24 hours after antibiotics start.

But yeah, I would just generally stay away and wash what surfaces you can a few times a day (with gloves on!). Stay well!
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:56 PM on January 1, 2013


Wash your hands regularly; don't rub your eyes; vitamin C, while not the miracle cure some tout, has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds (which strep isn't but even if it's of no use at all, it's relatively cheap and won't hurt to supplement).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:59 PM on January 1, 2013


Wash your hands constantly, constantly, constantly. Also, consider wearing a mask while at home and avoid being close to your roommate.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:06 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Would SickGuy and the rest of the roommates consider "quarantining" him for the next day or two: i.e., he promises to stay securely in his room, and the rest of you bring him meals, fluids, etc. as per his requests? (Leave his meals and drinks on a small table right outside his bedroom door, then go away while he reaches out for stuff and closes his door again.)

And if you can, call one bathroom 'his' for the duration.
posted by easily confused at 4:23 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frequent handwashing, try to avoid sharing any spaces as much as possible (even at different times), and if you have a chance, take a prophylactic dose of antibiotics (which is probably the best solution).
CutaneousRabbit: Gargle with warm salt water three or so times a day.
My friends who are doctors tell me the mouth, throat, and nose have the best protection against infections, and the eyes and ears are believed to be the usual attack points. If this is true, gargling with salt water would be fairly useless.
Kid Charlemagne: ...vitamin C, while not the miracle cure some tout, has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds (which strep isn't but even if it's of no use at all...
Colds are caused by viruses; strep is bacterial. Why suggest medical advice that you know is of no use?
posted by IAmBroom at 4:56 PM on January 1, 2013


Yeah, this is an infection, not a virus. So don't touch any of his phlegmy tissues, and don't lick his throat or make out with him. Make sure he washes his hands frequently and do the same yourselves.
posted by elizardbits at 5:01 PM on January 1, 2013


Also, no idea about your age or social habits, but something that is obvious in retrospect yet nevertheless I wish people had told me when I was in various roommate situations is DO NOT SHARE A BONG WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS STREP.
posted by elizardbits at 5:03 PM on January 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


When I had strep, my stubborn partner took absolutely no precautions and never contracted it. The doc told me that it's not terribly common for adults to get it if they have a normal immune system. I was completely worn down from working 100 hour weeks when I got it. I'm not saying that this is the correct strategy, but hope it gives some perspective.
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:12 PM on January 1, 2013


Understanding strep throat - prevention.

Sounds like you are already doing the right thing. The advice to get enough rest and eat right is always a good idea when exposed to any sick person.
posted by gudrun at 5:14 PM on January 1, 2013


My friends who are doctors tell me the mouth, throat, and nose have the best protection against infections, and the eyes and ears are believed to be the usual attack points. If this is true, gargling with salt water would be fairly useless.

Does not follow. The point is not necessarily to prevent every single microbe from entering (since that's probably unrealistic), but to prevent them from congregating and muliplying in your throat in sufficient numbers that they can overpower your defenses. Gargling with salt water is smart, as is drinking lots of hot tea with honey. (Honey is antiseptic, and hot tea helps wash bacteria down into your stomach, whose gastric acids will kill them.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:21 PM on January 1, 2013


I think some of the advice here is rather over the top. Quarantine in his room, really? I'm a doctor, I see people with strep throat on almost every shift and I even TOUCH them and gaze deep into their throats (without a mask on!), and I haven't ever gotten strep.

If you really feel the need to take things beyond just general common sense, not swapping spit or toothbrushes, and hand washing, check gudrun's link to the WebMD page on strep throat prevention.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:04 PM on January 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, handwashing and avoiding saliva. That's really all you need.

And please don't ask your doctor for prophylactic antibiotics as suggested above. Overuse of antibiotics leads to resistant bacteria, which we really don't need (not to mention that it would increase useless healthcare spending and cause potential unpleasant and unnecessary side-effects for you). Preventative antibiotics for strep throat would definitely qualify as overuse unless you're severely immunocompromised (like, you've got AIDS or are receiving chemotherapy).
posted by vytae at 8:12 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


A little late to the thread, but it is important to not share phones with someone who has strep. Do not borrow and use their cell phone. Do not let them borrow and use your cell phone. If you have a shared land-line, douse the ear and mouth pieces with disinfectant before use.

I got one of the worse cases of strep throat in my life after a co-worker who came down with strep used my office phone. It came down through my ear into my throat which was doubly awful.
posted by seppyk at 5:51 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


feral_goldfish: Gargling with salt water is smart, as is drinking lots of hot tea with honey. (Honey is antiseptic, and hot tea helps wash bacteria down into your stomach, whose gastric acids will kill them.)
As you said: Does not follow.

Can you prove that this bacterial infection is impacted in any way whatsoever by each of these treatments? Otherwise, gargling with salt water is superstition, not "smart".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 AM on January 2, 2013


Can you prove that this bacterial infection is impacted in any way whatsoever by each of these treatments?

Depends what you mean by 'prove'. IANAD and am writing this on a sofa next to a cat, not at a desk in a ward of strep throat patients' roommates, divided into three groups who are respectively gargling, sipping tea, and getting plenty of rest and fluids. Nor do I currently have access to paywalled full-text medical articles.

On the other hand, two seconds with Google found that the doctor who wrote The Mayo Clinic's Book on Home Remedies says gargling helps remove bacteria from the throat. Cited in the same article is a nursing journal abstract which notes that "a teaspoon or two of honey has antimicrobial activity".

Basically, there are two approaches to fighting infection: one is to prevent it from breaching bodily boundaries, while the other is to mobilize internal defenses. These approaches are not mutually exclusive at a practical level (which is what apip is looking for), and both are supported by clinical evidence, although historically they have developed different ideological resonances: for an interesting discussion of which, see Emily Martin's Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of Aids. No link to the book because (anti-self-link full disclosure) I helped research it, and anyhow it's not especially pertinent to apip's question.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:06 AM on January 3, 2013


Thank you so much, feral_goldfish! There's so much freaking quackery/wives' tales advice out there. I'm pleased to retract my doubts.

Also, Kid Charlemagne, FG's 2nd link had this tidbit:
Vitamins C and D have the largest benefit-to-risk ratio for patients and may reduce the risk of pneumonia from a recent meta-analysis.
I'm wrong on both counts.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


But your point about eye and ear entry is interesting and valid, especially in light of seppyk's experience.

How about you, apip? Strep throat's incubation period is 1-3 days; how do the numbers look on your plague ship's current casualty list?
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2013


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