Strep Throat


What is strep throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection involving the throat and tonsils. This infection is caused by group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria, from which it gets its name. Strep throat usually causes a severe sore throat. In some cases, this also presents as a scratchy or burning sensation. 

People can become infected with strep throat in a few different ways. If you breathe in fluid droplets from an infected person or touch a contaminated surface, then touch your mouth or eyes, you may become sick. Sharing dishes or food with someone infected or coming in contact with skin sores caused by group A strep can also transmit the disease. Hand hygiene and avoiding contact with infected people is the best way to avoid catching strep throat. 

Strep throat is most prevalent in children ages 5-15 but can occur in anyone during any time of the year. The incubation period for this infection is roughly 2-5 days. The onset of symptoms often begins quite suddenly and is severe right at the beginning. 

The main difference between a sore throat and strep throat is that the latter almost always has white patches on your tonsils or the back of your throat. A fever sometimes also accompanies the infection. The pain from strep throat is usually severe, and your voice may be affected for up to two weeks.

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics and supportive therapy, such as drinking plenty of clear fluids, sucking on throat lozenges, and eating frozen foods to soothe your throat. If strep throat is left untreated, complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever can be severe. Therefore, it is imperative to take the prescribed antibiotics exactly as instructed. Early discontinuation of your antibiotics may lead to a relapse of your infection. 

Pathophysiology and Risk Factors

Strep throat is an infectious disease caused by group A streptococcus bacteria that spreads through person-to-person transmission. It is passed through the saliva or nasal secretions of an infected person. Therefore, contact with someone with this illness greatly increases your chance of catching it.

The highest risk age group is children and adolescents age 5-15 years, but anyone can get this infection. People who spend a lot of time in close quarters with others, especially children, have a higher risk of getting strep throat. This is due to the increased likelihood of coming in contact with an infected person.


Signs and Symptoms

In babies, signs of strep throat are lethargy, sleepiness, refusal to feed. Babies with strep throat may also be more fussy than usual due to swollen glands in the neck and throat and tonsil irritation.

Strep throat in children and adults has a similar presentation to that in babies. A few symptoms are a sore throat, fever, swollen, red tonsils, white patches on your tonsils or the back of your throat, headache, irritability, and sleepiness. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with one of our online physicians today to ensure you begin treatment. This can prevent your symptoms from worsening. 


Diagnosing strep throat is simple and usually involves a physical exam. Your doctor will look at your throat and examine it for signs of infection or irritation. They will also check for any swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck and possibly do a rapid strep test. This test involves swabbing your throat and gives results in about 5 minutes. It  looks for the presence of specific antigens from the streptococcus bacteria in your throat 

If your results are inconclusive or your doctor is not satisfied with them, a throat culture may be ordered to see what bacteria, viruses, or fungi may be the problem. Another test that can be done by collecting a sample from your throat is a polymerase chain reaction test. This looks for the presence of bacterial genetic material to indicate whether or not you have an infection.


In almost all cases, a prescription antibiotic is needed to clear the infection. However, a few home remedies can help ease discomfort in the meantime. These include drinking warm liquids, using a cool-mist humidifier, gargling with warm salt water, and getting plenty of rest. Additionally, there are essential oils that can be used for strep throat. A popular one is thyme, which can be gargled with water or added to a bath for maximum benefit.

The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for this condition are penicillin or amoxicillin. Antibiotic treatment usually lasts for ten days. It's essential to take the antibiotic for the entire duration prescribed to avoid further complications or relapse of the illness. Strep throat is highly contagious, so you should avoid contact with others until your symptoms heal. Also, be mindful to wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading the infection.


The prognosis for properly treated strep throat infections is quite good. Symptoms typically get better in about one week with antibiotics. Without proper treatment, though, strep throat can cause some severe complications. These include tonsil abscesses, rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS) syndrome, and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which is inflammation of the kidneys.

If you suspect you may have strep throat or simply have throat pain you can’t get rid of, talk to one of our online physicians now to get on the road to recovery and prevent potential complications.

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