The Most Common Strep Throat Symptoms

Woman suffering from sore throat in Pharmacy. Credit: Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Strep throat symptoms range from fever to sore throat. 

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. Strep throat accounts for only a small portion of sore throats.

If untreated, strep throat can cause complications, such as kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can lead to painful and inflamed joints, a specific type of rash or heart valve damage.

Strep throat is most common in children, but it affects people of all ages. If you or your child has signs or symptoms of strep throat, see your doctor for prompt testing and treatment.

More About Symptoms of Strep Throat

While you generally don't want to run to the doctor every time that your child has typical viral symptoms, like a runny nose and cough, it is a little different for sore throats.

Because he might have strep throat, you likely should see your Pediatrician and get a strep test when your child has classic symptoms, including the sudden onset of:

On the other hand, if your child has a sore throat and many other viral symptoms, like a cough, diarrhea, pink eye, mouth ulcers, hoarse voice, or runny nose, then you may just let it "run its course," since it is less likely to be strep.

Keep in mind that even though your child may get better without antibiotics when he has strep throat, it can put him at risk of developing rheumatic fever.

Causes of Strep Throat

The cause of strep throat is bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus.

Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious.

They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks. You can also pick up the bacteria from a doorknob or other surface and transfer them to your nose, mouth or eyes.

Risk factors

Several factors can increase your risk of strep throat infection:

  • Young age. Strep throat occurs most commonly in children.
  • Time of year. Although strep throat can occur anytime, it tends to circulate in late fall and early spring. Strep bacteria flourish wherever groups of people are in close contact.

Complications of Strep Throat

Although strep throat isn't dangerous, it can lead to serious complications. Antibiotic treatment reduces the risk.

Spread of infection: Strep bacteria may spread, causing infection in:

  • Tonsils
  • Sinuses
  • Skin
  • Blood
  • Middle ear

Inflammatory reactions: Strep infection may lead to inflammatory illnesses, including:

  • Scarlet fever, a streptococcal infection characterized by a prominent rash
  • Inflammation of the kidney (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis)
  • Rheumatic fever, a serious inflammatory condition that can affect the heart, joints, nervous system and skin

Researchers are investigating a possible link between strep infection and a rare condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with group A streptococci (PANDAS). PANDAS is a term used to describe certain children whose symptoms of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or tic disorders, are worsened by strep infection.


Mayo Clinic. Strep Throat.

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