Strep Throat
Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Strep Throat May Also Be Known as:

  • Streptococcal pharyngitis



Possible Symptoms for Strep Throat

The most common strep throat symptoms include a fever, sore throat, and headache.[1] Early symptoms for strep throat often resemble cold symptoms, but strep throat usually doesn’t cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, or nasal congestion.[2]

If you have strep throat, your throat might look red and raw. White or yellow spots could develop on your tonsils, and the glands in your neck might swell. You may experience nausea, vomiting, or chills.[1] Strep throat can make swallowing painful. People with strep throat could lose their appetite or find it difficult to eat regular meals.[3]

Strep throat can also develop into a condition called scarlet fever. Symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, high fever, and a bright red rash on the face, arms, and trunk. Left untreated, scarlet fever can cause permanent damage to your heart or kidneys.[4]

Top Cause of Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by a strain of Streptococcus bacteria. Strep bacteria are highly contagious and usually spread through direct person-to-person contact. The bacteria can be transmitted through an infected person’s saliva or droplets expelled into the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes.[1]

After exposure to strep throat bacteria, symptoms usually appear within two to five days.[3] Most people catch strep throat by sharing close quarters with a sick person. You may catch the illness from a family member or spouse. Children and young adults can also catch strep throat at their school or daycare.

4 Ways to Prevent Strep Throat

1. Wash Your Hands Frequently

Regular handwashing and good hygiene can help prevent the spread of illnesses like strep throat. Scrub your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.[5] Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry your hands. Be sure to wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom. You should also wash your hands before and after touching your face.

2. Cover Your Mouth When Sneezing or Coughing

If you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth. It’s best to sneeze or cough into your elbow or upper arm rather than your hands.[6] If you must sneeze or cough into your hands, wash them right away. Encourage family members and young children to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing. This helps prevent the spread of illness.

3. Stay Away From Sick People

Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. If someone in your family is sick, it might be best to isolate them in their bedroom or another area away from the rest of the family.[7] Try to keep your distance from coworkers or classmates who are ill.

4. Don’t Share Drinks, Toothbrushes, or Other Personal Items

The germs that cause strep throat can be transmitted through saliva. To avoid catching strep throat, don’t share cups, straws, or silverware. Avoid sharing any personal items that might come in contact with your saliva, such as toothbrushes or lipstick.[8]

Possible Strep Throat Treatment Options

Once a strep test has confirmed the diagnosis of strep throat, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat. Left untreated, strep throat could lead to life-threatening health complications, including pneumonia, meningitis, or toxic shock syndrome.[9] Fortunately, antibiotics can help clear up the infection, halt the spread of strep throat, and reduce your risk of developing complications.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, be sure to take the medication as directed. Don’t skip doses, and don’t stop taking the medication without your doctor’s permission. Don’t share the medicine with friends or family members. Failing to take your medication correctly can result in your infection coming back.[10]

You can catch strep throat more than once.[11] If you recover from strep throat, it’s important to stay away from other people who have strep or you could contract the illness again. It’s also important to sterilize or replace personal care items such as toothbrushes after you recover from strep throat.

Once you start taking antibiotics, you usually start to feel better within a few days.[8] In the meantime, you might be able to treat your symptoms with over-the-counter throat lozenges or throat sprays. Gargling with warm salt water can also help clear up the infection and provide relief from painful symptoms.[12] Ask your doctor or pharmacist for other recommendations for at-home treatments.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Strep Throat

  • How long have you had a sore throat?
  • Is your sore throat getting worse or better?
  • Do you experience cold symptoms, such as sneezing or a runny nose?
  • Does anything make your symptoms better or worse?
  • Has anyone in your family, school, or workplace been sick with strep throat?

Sources

  1. Mayo Clinic. Strep throat. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20350338
  2. WebMD. What Are the Symptoms for Strep Throat? https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/understanding-strep-throat-symptoms#1
  3. Healthline. Strep Throat. https://www.healthline.com/health/strep-throat#outlook
  4. Mayo Clinic. Scarlet fever. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scarlet-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20377406
  5. Center for Disease Control. Wash Your Hands. https://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/index.html
  6. Center for Disease Control. Coughing & Sneezing. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html
  7. WebMD. Quarantine and Isolation. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/quarantine-isolation
  8. Center for Disease Control. Worried your sore throat may be strep? https://www.cdc.gov/features/strepthroat/index.html
  9. MedicineNet. What are the possible complications of strep throat? https://www.medicinenet.com/strep_throat_complications/views.htm
  10. Mayo Clinic. Antibiotics: Are you misusing them? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/antibiotics/art-20045720
  11. Center for Disease Control. Strep Throat. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/strep-throat.html
  12. Heathline. What Are the Benefits of a Salt Water Gargle? https://www.healthline.com/health/salt-water-gargle

Recommended Reading

Before we dive in, the quick answer is, yes, you CAN get an STD test at urgent care. Some benefits of going to urgent care: You can get same-day, walk-in care You can book an appointment online and save even more time Urgent care centers can treat you discreetly From the time yo...

Did you know that, on average, between 5 and 20% of people in the United States get the flu each year? That’s roughly 16 to 64 million people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 200 thousand of those people are hospitalized due to complications from the flu, whi...

It's November, which means the holiday season is nearly here. With all the joy and family gatherings the holidays bring comes injuries and illness, too. Keep your family healthy this year by understanding - and avoiding - the most common holiday accidents. But if you find yourself needing medi...