Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the throat. This common condition is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat can affect children and adults of all ages. However, it’s especially common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Sneezing and coughing can spread the infection from one person to another.
Symptoms of strep throat
The severity of strep throat can vary from person-to-person. Some people experience mild symptoms like a sore throat, whereas other people have more severe symptoms including fever and difficulty swallowing. The common symptoms of strep throat include:
- a sudden fever, especially if it’s 101˚F or higher
- a sore, red throat with white patches
- a headache
- a loss of appetite
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- trouble swallowing
The symptoms of strep throat typically develop within five days of exposure to the bacteria.
When to see your doctor
Not all sore throats are a result of a strep infection. Other illnesses can cause a sore throat, too. This includes:
Sore throats caused by other medical conditions usually improve on their own with or without treatment in a few days.
Call your doctor if you experience:
- a sore throat that lasts longer than two days
- a sore throat with white patches
- dark, red splotches or spots on the tonsils or the top of the mouth
- a sore throat with a fine, sandpaper-like pink rash on the skin
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
Finding a doctor for strep throat
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Treating strep throat
If you’re diagnosed with strep throat, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. These medications inhibit the spread of bacteria and infections. Several types of antibiotics are available. However, penicillin and amoxicillin are the most common medications given for a strep infection.
It’s important that you finish your antibiotic treatment course to kill the infection completely. Some people stop taking their medication when symptoms improve, which can trigger a relapse. If this happens, the symptoms can return.
In addition to antibiotics, there are at-home treatments to improve the symptoms of strep throat. These remedies include:
- drinking warm liquids, such as lemon water and tea
- drinking cold liquids to help numb the throat
- turning on a cool-mist humidifier
- taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- sucking on throat lozenges
- adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water and gargling the mixture