Symptoms of Strep

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the throat. This common condition is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat can affect children and adults of all ages.

However, it’s especially common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Sneezing and coughing can spread the infection from one person to another.


Strep throat symptoms

The severity of strep throat can vary from person to person. Some people experience mild symptoms, like a sore throat. Other people have more severe symptoms, including fever and difficulty swallowing.

The common symptoms of strep throat include:

  • a sudden fever, especially if it’s 101˚F (38˚C) or higher

  • a sore, red throat with white patches

  • a headache

  • chills

  • a loss of appetite

  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • trouble swallowing

These symptoms typically develop within five days of exposure to the strep bacteria. 

How contagious is strep throat? Strep throat is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It usually spreads through small respiratory droplets that become airborne when someone with strep throat sneezes or coughs. 

Strep throat is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes or group A Streptococcus (also known as group A strep, or GAS).

You can become infected with strep throat if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after being exposed to these bacteria.

Along with coughing and sneezing, strep throat can be spread when you share food or a drink with someone who’s infected.

You can also get strep throat by coming into contact with an object contaminated with group A strep bacteria, such as a doorknob or faucet, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Strep throat diagnosis

See your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • a sore throat that lasts longer than two days

  • a sore throat with white patches

  • dark, red splotches or spots on the tonsils or the top of the mouth

  • a sore throat with a fine, sandpaper-like pink rash on the skin

  • difficulty breathing

  • difficulty swallowing

Your doctor will examine your throat and check for signs of inflammation. They may also check your neck for swollen lymph nodes and ask about other symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have strep throat, they may do a rapid strep test in the office.

This test determines whether your sore throat is caused by a strep infection or another type of bacteria or germ. Your doctor swabs the back of your throat with a long cotton swab, collecting a sample. The sample is then sent to a lab to look for signs of bacteria.

The results are available in about 5 minutes. If your rapid strep test is negative but your doctor thinks you have strep throat, your sample may be sent to an outside lab for additional testing. These results are available within a few days. 

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