Strep throat is a
bacterial infection in the throat and the
tonsils. The throat gets irritated and
inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat.
Strep throat is caused
by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. There are many different types of strep
bacteria. Some cause more serious illness than others.
some people are quick to think that any painful sore throat is strep, sore
throats are usually caused by a
viral infection and not strep bacteria. A sore throat
caused by a virus can be just as painful as strep throat. But if you have cold
symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose, you probably do
not have strep throat.
The most common symptoms of
strep throat are:
- A sudden, severe sore throat.
- Pain when you swallow.
- Fever over
- Swollen tonsils and
- White or yellow spots on the
back of a bright red throat.
You may also have a headache and belly pain. Less common
symptoms are a
red skin rash, vomiting, not feeling hungry, and body
Strep throat can be passed from person to person. When a
person who has strep throat breathes, coughs, or sneezes, tiny droplets with
the strep bacteria go into the air. These droplets can be breathed in by other
people. If you come into contact with strep, it will take 2 to 5 days before
you start to have symptoms.
Your doctor will do
a physical exam, ask you about your symptoms and past health, and do a
lab test such as a throat culture or rapid strep test.
A rapid test gives a result within about 10 minutes. But sometimes the test doesn't show strep even when it is present. A culture takes one or two days but is better at finding all cases of strep.
If the rapid strep test is positive and says that you do have
strep, there's no need to do the throat culture.
Doctors usually treat strep throat with
antibiotics. Antibiotics shorten
the time you are able to spread the disease to others (are contagious) and
lower the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. Antibiotics also may help you feel better faster.
You are contagious while you still have symptoms. Most people stop being
contagious 24 hours after they start antibiotics. If you don't take
antibiotics, you may be contagious for 2 to 3 weeks, even if your symptoms go
Your doctor may also advise you to take an over-the-counter
medicine like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or
Motrin) to help with pain and lower your fever. Do not give aspirin to anyone
younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.