Strep Throat Information

Hispanic doctor checking patient's throat
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Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by group A streptococcus. This bacteria can cause infections in other parts of the body as well, but is most commonly seen as a cause of throat infection in school-age children. 

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Sore or painful throat
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired
  • White patches in the back of the throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea or stomachache

Strep throat is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Children younger than 5 can get it, as can adults, but it occurs less frequently in these age groups. Strep throat is very rare in children under 3. The group A strep bacteria will usually affect a different part of the body in these children.

Diagnosis

Strep throat is diagnosed by a throat swab taken at your doctor's office. This is called a rapid strep test and can usually give you results in about 5 to 10 minutes. If the rapid strep test is negative, your child's doctor may send an actual throat culture off to see if it grows the strep A bacteria. This usually provides results in 24-48 hours and is considered the gold standard in diagnosis. 

Strep throat cannot be diagnosed simply by sight. Although you may have heard that white patches or significant redness in the throat are an indication of strep throat, these symptoms and findings can also be caused by viruses.

Taking antibiotics without verifying that your symptoms are caused by a bacteria is not a good idea. The overuse of antibiotics has led to increasing antibiotic resistance, which could make it harder to treat bacterial infections in the future. 

Treatment

After you are diagnosed, you will either be given a prescription for oral antibiotics or your doctor may give you a shot of antibiotics.

If you take oral antibiotics, it is important to take all of the prescribed amount. If you do not take all of the antibiotics prescribed to you, you have a higher chance of developing antibiotic resistance.

What Happens if I Don't Get Treated?

Strep throat can lead to several serious illnesses if it is left untreated. The group A streptococcus bacteria can spread through the body and cause rheumatic fever, kidney problems and other serious complications. Although these complications are rare, they can be life-threatening. It is important to see your healthcare provider if you believe you may have strep throat.

What Else You Need to Know

Strep throat is most common during the fall, winter and spring. This is likely due to the fact that children are in school during these seasons and have more exposure to the illness. When a child is exposed to strep at school, he may come home and expose the rest of the family.

The incubation period for strep throat is 2 to 5 days, meaning that symptoms will not appear for 2 to 5 days after a person is exposed to the illness.

Strep throat is spread by person to person contact. Be sure not to share drinks with a person who is sick and always wash your hands thoroughly.

Any contact with saliva or bodily fluids will spread the illness.

Source: 

CDC. Is It Strep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/strepthroat/index.html. Published October 17, 2016. 

 

Strep Throat. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/strep-throat.html. 

Strep throat: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000639.htm. 

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