• Strep Throat

    (Bacterial Sore Throat)


    Strep throat is an infection in the throat caused by bacteria.
    Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Strep throat is caused by specific bacteria. The bacteria enter through inhaled air droplets and grow in the throat causing the infection and symptoms.
    The strep bacteria is spread by airborne droplets. This occurs with coughing or sneezing from infected people, or by touching a contaminated surface then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

    Risk Factors

    Strep throat is more common in children and adolescents. Other factors that increase your chance of strep throat include:
    • Exposure to family member or friend who has strep throat
    • Crowded living situations
    • Having strep living in the throat—occurs in 15% to 30% of people


    Strep throat may cause:
    • Red, sore throat with white patches
    • Headache
    • Swollen, sore glands in the neck
    • Fever
    • Red spots on the roof of the mouth
    • Painful, difficult swallowing
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea and possibly vomiting
    • Decreased appetite
    • Rash
    • Muscle aches, especially in the neck, and abdominal pains, especially in younger children
    • Swelling in back of mouth
    Complications of untreated strep throat can be serious and include:
    Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis is also rare, but it can occur, even with treatment


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests to confirm strep throat may be used and include:
    • Rapid antigen strep screen—Antigens are a part of the body's immune response to specific infection. This test can identify antigens within a few minutes of the test. However, a negative test does not mean you do not have strep throat (this is called a false negative).
    • Throat culture—A sample of throat fluid is taken to a lab to see if strep bacteria grows. It takes a few days to gets results.
    • Rapid DNA test—DNA technology is used to detect strep throat. The results are usually available in one day.
    Only a rapid DNA test or throat culture can confidently distinguish strep throat from throat infections with other causes. Doctors will often make a diagnosis and decide about treatment based on symptoms, physical findings, and test results.


    Most sore throats, including strep throat, will get better on its own in 7-10 days. Although the sore throat disappears, the infection may remain. It is important to follow through with proper treatment to prevent serious complications.


    Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Antibiotics may be given as a pill or a shot. Symptoms will often fade in the first few days of medication, but it is important to take all of the antibiotics as prescribed.
    Your doctor may advise over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers to ease symptoms.
    Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.


    To help reduce your chance of getting strep throat:
    • Wash your hands carefully.
    • Don't share beverages or food.
    • Avoid exposure to other people who may have a strep infection.
    • Replace your toothbrush after starting antibiotic treatment to prevent re-infecting yourself.


    American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org


    About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Choby BA. Diagnosis and treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(5):383-390.

    Ebell MH, Smith MA, Barry HC, Ives K, Carey M. Does the patient have strep throat? JAMA. 2000; 284(22):2912-2918.

    Montagnani F, Stolzuoli L, Croci L, et al. Erythromycin resistance in Streptococcus pyogenes and macrolide consumption in a central Italian region. Infection. 2009 Aug;37(4):353-357.

    Neuner JM, Hamel MB, Phillips RS, Bona K, Aronson MD. Diagnosis and management of adults with pharyngitis. A cost effectiveness study. Ann Intern Med. 2003;139:113-122.

    Pace B. JAMA patient page. Strep throat. JAMA. 2000;284(22):2964.

    Ressel G. Practice guidelines: Principles of appropriate antibiotic use: part IV: Acute pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(5):870-875.

    Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed August 10, 2015.

    Streptococcal pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115782/Streptococcal-pharyngitis. Updated July 20, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.

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