Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils. It causes pain, redness, or pus in the back of the throat.
Strep throat is caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. The strep bacteria is spread by airborne droplets. This occurs with coughing or sneezing from infected people, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. The droplets can also be inhaled.
Strep throat is more common in children and adolescents. Other factors that increase your chance of strep throat include:
Strep throat may cause:
Complications of untreated strep throat can be serious and include:
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 assume strep throat based on symptoms. Tests may be done to confirm. Tests may include:
Most sore throats, including strep throat, will get better in 7 to 10 days. Although the sore throat disappears, the infection may remain. It is important to follow through with proper treatment to prevent serious complications.
Antibiotics will be given to treat the infection. They may be given as a pill or a shot. Symptoms will often fade in the first few days of treatment. It is important to take all of the antibiotics as prescribed.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers may also help.
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 chances of strep throat:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Choby BA. Diagnosis and treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(5):383-390.
Montagnani F, Stolzuoli L, et al. Erythromycin resistance in Streptococcus pyogenes and macrolide consumption in a central Italian region. Infection. 2009;37(4):353-357.
Sore throat. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-nasal-and-pharyngeal-symptoms/sore-throat. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Streptococcal pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115782/Streptococcal-pharyngitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN Last Updated: 1/29/2021