Strep throat is a type throat infection that causes a sore throat. Although the term is commonly used, most throat infections are caused by virusus.
Sore Throat Due to Inflammation
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Strep throat is caused by specific bacteria. The bacteria enter through inhaled air droplets and grow in the throat causing the infection and symptoms.
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.
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 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.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
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Sore throats. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/sore-throats. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Strep throat. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/basics/definition/con-20022811. Updated December 20, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Streptococcal pharyngitis. DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 27, 2015. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Last reviewed August 2015 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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