Throat Strep: What Causes Strep Throat? – Symptoms & Treatment

Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by a bacteria called streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus.

Sore throat is a general term that is used for tender, scratchy and painful throat. The term sore throat is also used for strep throat but it is caused by bacteria.

Sore throat is caused by both bacteria and viruses while strep throat is only caused by bacteria.

Strep throat can affect adults and children but usually, it is prevalent in children between the ages of 5-15.

What causes strep throat?

Strep throat is caused by bacteria known as group A streptococcus or streptococcus pyogenes.

Other names that are used for strep throat are streptococcal sore throat or streptococcal pharyngitis.

Like other infection strep throat is spread through close contact. These bacteria are highly transmissible and can be spread from one person to another through air droplets that are produced by coughing, sneezing, and talking.

People may also be infected by touching the surfaces that have been affected by strep throat person, such as kitchen utensils bathroom objects, books, pens, doorknobs, keys, pillows, sports products, etc and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Kids get strep throat by putting infected objects in their mouths. All kids have the habits to put everything in their mouths.

Strep throat is common in children and adults. This is because the immune system of children does not have much strength to cope with all infections. Over time immune system becomes strong and able to compete with infections.

Strep throat infection is common in crowded areas such as schools and daycare centers. This infection becomes prevalent more in the winter season. This season is called strep sore season.

In winter season people are spending their time indoors. Living in close contact makes it easy to spread infections like strep throat.  Moreover, in winter the air becomes dry and dries out the mouth and nose, reducing the natural defense system of the body against infections.

What are the symptoms of strep throat?

The severity of strep throat varies from person to person. Usually, people develop strep throat within five days of exposure to infection. Some people experience mild symptoms like sore throat while others have severe symptoms like fever, difficulty in swallowing, and body aches.

The common symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Sudden onset of fever ( fever of 101 F or higher)
  • Headache
  • Sore and red throat
  • White patches in the throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lymph nodes swelling in the neck
  • Red swollen tonsils
  • Stomachache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rash

Consult a doctor if you or your children have these symptoms.

If sore throat is due to viral infection then you have these additional symptoms.

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Pinkeye or conjunctivitis
  • Hoarse voice

When to see a doctor if you have strep throat?

Call your doctor if you or your child has the following signs and symptoms

  • Sore throat is not responding to over-the-counter medication and home care tips
  • Sore throat accompanied by swollen and tender lymph nodes
  • Symptoms of sore throat become serious after the infection
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Persistent fever
  • Sore throat that stays longer than 48 hours
  • Lack of improvement after taking antibiotics

Strep throat risk factors

There are certain factors that increase the risk of strep throat. They include:

  • Unhygienic condition
  • Living with people who have strep throat
  • Staying in crowded areas such as daycare centers, schools, wedding functions, night clubs or markets
  • Age between 5-15 years
  • Seasons such as winter and early spring
  • Frequent contact with children or patients, like teachers and healthcare professional

Close contact is the main culprit for the propagation of strep throat.

Strep throat diagnosis

During diagnosis, the doctor will ask you about the symptoms that you are experiencing. Then he will do a physical examination by seeing your mouth with a torch. But usually, strep throat is caused by viral infection. To differentiate a bacterial infection from a viral infection, the doctor will perform one of the following tests.

Repaid strep test

This test gives results within a few minutes. A doctor will hold down your tongue with a depressor and collect a sample for the test through a cotton swab. A doctor will rub the swab on the back of your throat.

You will get a result in 20 minutes. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics upon a positive test. If the test is negative and you have the symptoms then the doctor will refer you throat culture test.

Throat culture test

A doctor will rub cotton swat with the back of your throat and tonsils and send it to the lab for a test.

If you have strep throat, bacteria will grow on the culture medium. This test usually takes two days but it is the authentic test. This test confirms that either you have strep throat or not.

Strep throat treatment

Strep throat is a bacterial infection so a doctor will prescribe antibiotics for its treatment. Centers for disease control CDC recommends eight antibiotics for the treatment of strep throat. They include:

  • Penicillin
  • Cefadroxil
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Azithromycin

The most widely used antibiotics for strep throat are penicillin and amoxicillin. But if you are allergic to these antibiotics then the doctor will prescribe other antibiotics to you like clarithromycin.

Note: you should take the complete course of antibiotics. Some people leave antibiotics in the middle of the course. With this bacteria show resistance to antibiotics and infection reverses.

Home remedies for strep throat

In addition to antibiotics, home remedies can relieve the symptoms of strep throat quickly. These remedies include:

  • Take proper rest
  • Avoid hot food and drinking
  • Use warm liquids such as tea and lemon water
  • Drink cold liquids to relieve the soreness of the throat
  • Use soft foods like applesauce and yogurt to ease discomfort or pain
  • Sucking on ice cubes to reduce throat irritation
  • Sucking on lozenges to reduce the symptoms of sore throat
  • Consume warm drinks to ease the pain and irritation
  • Gargling with salty water to reduce swelling and pain
  • Use over the counter pain killers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Use essential oil which has tremendous soothing effects on strep throat

Complications of strep throat

Strep throat is not a serious infection and can be easily treated but if it is left untreated then it causes serious complications.

The potential complications of strep throat include:

  • Sinusitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infection
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Peritonsillar abscess
  • Meningitis
  • Kidneys inflammation, post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis
  • Arthritis, post-streptococcal arthritis
  • Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome

To prevent these complications you should talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of strep throat.

How to prevent strep throat

Nearly all people have got strep throat at some point in their lives because there is no vaccine for strep throat. To avoid strep throat you should follow the following tips.

  • Wash your hand regularly
  • During coughing cover your mouth
  • Clean up high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, kitchen utensils, chair arms, countertops, tabletop, etc
  • Isolate personal products if you have or people have strep throat
  • Avoid close contact with people who have strep throat
  • Make your immune system strong
  • Discard your toothbrush after the end of antibiotics

These simple tips will not only protect you from strep throat but also other infections.

Does strep throat go away?

Yes strep throat go away with normal treatment. You will get better after two days of taking antibiotics. Call your doctor if you or your children not feeling after 48 hours of talking antibiotics.

If you or your children have strep throat stay at home to prevent the propagation of strep throat.

Is strep throat contagious?

Yes strep throat is contagious disease. When you have strep throat infection then you are a mean source of propagation. Streptococcal bacteria are contagious and spread through contact or air droplets produced during coughing and sneezing.

How long strep throat last?

strep throat is not serious infection and it is treatable. You can recover within 10 days with proper use of antibiotics. Along with antibiotics also follow home remedy tips to get soothing effect. Commonly used antibiotics include:

  • Penicillin
  • Cefadroxil
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Azithromycin


Strep throat is a sore throat that is caused by streptococcal pyrogenic. It is a very common infection in children and adults. It usually occurs in the cold season.

The common symptoms of strep throat include pain in the throat, swollen tonsils, fever, body aches, swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck, and white spots in the throat.

Antibiotics and home remedies recover the infection within a few days. It is very important to take an entire course of antibiotics to clear the infection.

Strep throat is a contagious infection spread through close contact and water droplets that are produced during coughing and sneezing.

If it is left untreated then it can cause serious complications such as bacteremia, sinusitis, otitis, scarlet fever, meningitis, reactive arthritis, and rheumatic fever.


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