Strep throat is pain, redness, or pus in the back of the throat.
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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 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
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:
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 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, Croci 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. Updated March 2016. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Streptococcal pharyngitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115782/Streptococcal-pharyngitis. Updated July 20, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 8/10/2015