(Bacterial Sore Throat)
Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils.
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Strep throat is caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. A person can become infected by:
- Breathing in air droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes
- Touching something with infected droplets on it and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth
- Sharing glasses or eating utensils with a person who has the infection
Strep throat is more common in children who are 5 to 15 years of age. Other factors that raise the risk of strep throat are:
- Spending time with someone who has strep throat
- Crowded living situations
Strep throat may cause:
- Fever and chills
- Red spots on the roof of the mouth
- A red, sore throat with white patches
- Swollen, sore glands in the neck
- Swelling in the back of the mouth
- Problems swallowing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle aches, especially in the neck
- Belly pain, especially in younger children
Complications of untreated strep throat can be serious and include:
- Middle ear infection or sinus infection
- Peritonsillar abscess
- Bacterial meningitis
- Infective endocarditis
- rheumatic fever and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders (PANDAS) associated with streptococcal infection (rare)
Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (kidney damage) is also rare, but it can occur, even with treatment
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect strep throat based on symptoms. Tests will be done to confirm it. Tests may include:
- Rapid antigen strep screen—a fast test that may not detect all strep throat
- Throat culture—A sample of throat fluid is taken to a lab. It takes a few days to gets results.
- Rapid DNA test—results are usually available in one day
Antibiotics will be given to treat the infection. Over the counter pain relievers may also be used to manage symptoms.
To lower the risk of strep throat:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Do not share glasses or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Do not spend time around people who are sick.
- Sore throat. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-nasal-and-pharyngeal-symptoms/sore-throat.
- Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/sore-throats.
- Streptococcal pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/streptococcal-pharyngitis.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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