Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection.
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Strep throat is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. It is spread by airborne droplets, most often from:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for strep throat include:
Symptoms of strep throat include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests to detect strep throat may be used and include:
While only a, rapid DNA test or throat culture can confidently distinguish strep throats from those caused by virus infection, doctors will make a diagnosis and decide about treatment primarily by careful evaluation of symptoms and physical findings.
Almost all sore throats—including strep—will get better on their own in 7-10 days. Strep throat improves more rapidly with antibiotics than without. (Antibiotics do not affect the healing of sore throats due to virus infection.) Given as a pill or a shot, types of antibiotics include penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, azithromycin, or cephalosporin antibiotics. Symptoms begin to disappear after only a few doses, but it is crucial that you finish the entire prescription.
Serious complications of undertreated strep throat include:
Antibiotics are typically given to prevent the complication of rheumatic fever from occurring after strep throat infection. In many communities, neither azithromycin nor erythromycin are reliably effective in treating strep throat or preventing rheumatic fever due to resistance of the bacteria.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help relieve sore throat and muscle aches and pains.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.
If your are diagnosed with strep throat, follow your doctor's instructions.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Brian Randall, 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.