Recurrent, unexplained strep — a memoir

In the past few months, several of my friends have sent me this article: This family’s repeated strep throat infections frustrated their doctors

To save you the click, it’s about a family who kept getting strep throat over and over and over, and they couldn’t figure out why. Eventually they discover that their CAT was the culprit. All along! Can you imagine!? The owners were lovingly feeding and petting and changing that dang animal’s litter box. All the while, it was infecting them.

My friends sent me this article, of course, because I have been getting recurrent strep infections — all while in quarantine. So it’s not like this could be explained by me continually coming in contact with germy preschoolers or kid birthday parties.

Considering I’m in quarantine and this KEEPS HAPPENING, the cat theory actually sounds really good. But imagine being in your doctor’s office and sheepishly suggesting…what do you think about my…cat?

My doctor actually heard me out. And he figured that since our cat isn’t a new cat (like in the article) and since I’m the only one getting strep (in the article it was the whole family), it probably wasn’t the cat.


Here’s a quick run-down of the saga that has been strep for me.

Since March 9 I’ve had strep seven times.

Prior to that, to my knowledge I’ve never had strep once in my entire life, and neither have my kids.

My first case was really, really bad. I had a 103 degree fever for several days while on antibiotics. Eventually I started to feel better, but I was out for at least a week. Subsequent cases haven’t been as bad (I think because I can recognize the symptoms before they start to get bad, so I’ve gotten on antibiotics really quickly) but take it from me: even a mild case of strep is bad. It still means I’m in bed for a few days unable to eat Cheetos because even swallowing my saliva feels like broken glass.

Here are some things we’ve tried in the past six months: deep-cleaning our house (including throwing away all chapsticks, toothpaste, tooth brushes, etc.), getting everyone in our family tested, putting everyone on simultaneous antibiotics, getting me tested after finishing antibiotics to make sure the bacteria is “gone,” gargling with hydrogen peroxide, and putting me on a long course of antibiotics.

So long, potentially-infected toothbrushes.

Taking my kids to the pediatrician in the middle of a pandemic for strep swabs. 

None of those heroic measures have worked. In fact, just five days after a 20-day course of antibiotics, I developed my sixth case. And four days after treatment for strep number six, strep number seven was already brewing.

My doctor’s explanation is simply that sometimes strep just gets really, really established in the tonsils. And he thinks that’s what happened after that first bad case.

And even though it would feel better to blame the cat, or my toothbrush, or the wildfires on the west coast, this explanation makes sense, too.

I have lots of “look how sick I am” selfies and gross photos of my infected tonsils. Thomas took this one and it’s my favorite because I think I look like a Victorian lady having “a spell.”

Another thing that’s happened in these past six months is that I’ve developed a decent amount of strep anxiety. This hits me at random, unpredictable times. I’m fine and then suddenly I’m inexplicably sick.

On morning, I woke up, ran eight miles, then came home and realized my throat was throbbing.

Or on our anniversary my parents took our kids so Tom and I could have time to ourselves. I spent a good part of the weekend waiting in doctor’s offices, and convalescing on the couch.

Or when I was planning to spend my birthday weekend visiting my parents, and we had to postpone the trip until I felt well enough to ride in a van for three hours.

I could go on, but I won’t.

(Ok, but literally that’s just three of seven. If you want the rest, you know where to find me!)

All of that has brought us here, to what I truly, truly hope is the grand conclusion of this bizarre saga. Because after seven cases even the insurance companies say ENOUGH!!! THIS SIMPLY CANNOT GO ON ANY LONGER!

My ENT has explained that, in the long-term, recurrent strep cases can actually be dangerous (and not only because it means I’m on antibiotics ALL THE TIME). Since my infections are never fully going away, it’s safer to just get those tonsils outta there.

I go in for my tonsillectomy on Friday.

After hearing a lot of horror stories about the recovery (Pro tip! Do NOT go on Reddit for tonsillectomy recovery research!) I’m feeling more than ever like I wish I could go back in time and just undo this whole thing. CTRL+Z! CTRL+Z!

It feels very 2020. Which is helpful, because I already have trouble remembering what years my kids were born, much less what year I had my thumb surgery. Was it 2016? Or 2017?

But 2020, there’s no forgetting. Remember the year when the world came to a screeching halt? And everyone was protesting? And there was a divisive presidential election? Oh yeah! That year! And Mom got her tonsils out!


T-minus three days till the surgery? What should I know about recovery?

Only positive and YOU CAN DO IT! -themed stories, please. Reddit has already covered the “things that can go wrong” and “new and creative ways to describe the pain!”




  1. Sarah O September 23, 2020

    So Caleb had his out right before he turned 3 and I prepared for apocalyptic-type nightmares. In reality, he was totally fine and angry that he couldn’t have cake the next day. ‍♀️ That’s my only personal experience I have so for you!!

    • amandakrieger October 4, 2020

      man, i wish i had the same experience! i’m on day 9 and still mad bc i can’t have cake! (or anything else…)

  2. Judith A Talbott September 23, 2020

    Popsicles! I was 8 when I had mine out. My twin sister and I missed half of first grade and the first two weeks of second because we kept bouncing tonsillitis back and forth. I don’t remember much about pain after the first day or so, certainly not too much worse than the tonsillitis it was correcting.

    • amandakrieger October 4, 2020

      apparently adults have a much harder time, which has definitely been my experience. i’m on day 9 and still in a lot of pain 🙁 i keep reminding myself that this brutal recovery is better than continuing to get strep over and over and over.


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