Strep Throat Symptoms

Lots of things can cause a sore through. One cause, especially in children and young adults, is the bacteria that creates strep throat. Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus) is the formal name of the bacterium.

Viruses can cause a sore throat too, including:

  • A cold

  • Chickenpox

  • COVID-19

  • Croup

  • Flu

  • Measles

  • Mono

Other things that might cause your sore throat include:

  • Allergies

  • Dry air

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)

  • HIV

  • Irritants, like tobacco smoke or eating spicy food

  • Muscle strain from talking loudly or for a long time, and yelling

  • Tumors

What Are the Common Symptoms of Strep Throat?

When you have strep, you’ll usually find that your throat is raw and it hurts to swallow. Your sore throat, if it’s caused by strep, will come on very fast, not gradually like many other kinds of sore throats. Other symptoms often include:

  • A fever of 101 F or higher

  • Chills

  • Body aches

  • Loss of appetite

  • Swollen lymph nodes on your neck

  • Really little red spots on the back part of the roof of your mouth

  • Red and swollen tonsils (two round lumps in the back of your throat -- you may also see white patches on them or elsewhere in your throat)

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Pain in your throat

Symptoms in children

Strep throat is more common with kids than adults, and it’s most common with children who are 5-15 years old. If your child has strep throat, they might also have symptoms like:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Vomiting

You might also see a red, sandpaper-like rash that starts in the face and neck area and then spreads to the rest of the body. This could be a sign of scarlet fever. You should call your doctor if you or a child in your care show any symptoms of strep or you see this rash.

What Strep Throat Isn’t

It’s easy to confuse it with other conditions, so it helps to know what it’s not:

It’s not a virus -- viruses can’t be cured with antibiotics.

It usually doesn’t come with a runny nose, a cough, or red eyes. These are usually signs of a virus or allergy.

It’s not life-threatening. But if you leave it untreated, strep throat can lead to more serious complications in some cases.

Strep Throat Transmission

The bacteria that cause strep are highly contagious. You can spread it by close contact -- including sneezes and handshakes -- or sharing someone else’s personal items.

Be sure to wash your hands often and be cautious about touching objects when someone in your house has strep.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 14, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

MedlinePlus.gov: “Sore Throat.”

KidsHealth.org (Nemours Children’s Health System): “Strep Throat.”

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: “Streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Diseases & Conditions: Strep Throat.”

CDC: “Is It Strep Throat?, “Strep Throat: All You Need to Know.”

“Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer,” “Scarlet Fever: A Group A Streptococcal Infection” and “Group B Strep Infection in Adults.”

American Family Physician: “Common Questions about Streptococcal Pharyngitis.”

Clinical Infectious Diseases: “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis: 2012 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.”

American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org): “When to Call the Pediatrician: Fever.”

Mayo Clinic: “Diseases & Conditions: Strep throat,” “Diseases & Conditions: Mononucleosis.”

PubMedHealth (National Center for Biotechnology Information): “Strep Throat: Symptoms.”

American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery: “Tonsils and Adenoids.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Strep Throat: Symptoms.”

University of Michigan Health System: “Swollen Lymph Nodes.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sore throat: Symptoms & Causes,” “Strep throat: Symptoms & Causes.” 

Stanford Children’s Health: “What You Need to Know About Strep Throat.”

 
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