Key Points about Strep Throat

  • Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that causes a sore throat, decreased appetite, fever, and pain while swallowing.
  • The bacteria that causes strep can spread via saliva, airborne droplets, or shared objects such as eating utensils.
  • Strep throat is treated with antibiotics.
  • Call your doctor if you or your child are experiencing symptoms of strep throat.
Common related conditions
Laryngitis

Overview

Strep throat is an infection of the throat caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which can be found in the throat’s nasal cavities of some people. The infection can be transmitted through saliva, airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze, or shared objects such as eating utensils.

People with strep throat often experience a sore throat that starts abruptly, pain while swallowing, a fever, and decreased appetite. If a sore throat is accompanied by a runny nose, you likely have a viral infection, not strep throat. 

Strep throat causes

Strep occurs when your throat becomes infected with Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which can spread from an infected person through:

  • Saliva, from sharing food or drinks, or from kissing
  • A cough or sneeze containing the bacteria in droplets
  • Touching your nose or mouth after touching an infected surface

Strep throat risk factors

While strep throat can affect anyone, it tends to occur more often:

  • In young children
  • In the winter and early spring

Strep throat symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of strep throat include:

  • A sore throat that starts abruptly
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Fever over 101 F
  • Decreased appetite
  • A stomachache, nausea, or vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Headache

If your sore throat is accompanied by a runny nose, the infection is likely viral, and not caused by strep bacteria.

Strep throat diagnosis

When diagnosing strep throat, your doctor will review your symptoms, and may conduct a physical examination to look for:

  • Patches of white in the throat
  • Patches of red on the roof of the mouth
  • Tonsils that are red and swollen
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Your doctor may also order a:

  • Rapid strep test, which can detect the presence of strep throat in around 20 minutes
  • Throat culture, which can confirm a case of strep throat after about two days

Strep throat treatment

Strep throat is treated with one of several antibiotics, prescribed by your doctor.

You may also want to try home remedies to alleviate pain from strep throat, such as:

  • Drinking warm tea and broth
  • Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Gargling a warm salt-water mixture to ease throat pain
  • Get plenty of rest

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you or your child have symptoms of strep throat.

Next Steps

To prevent the spread of strep throat, avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils, cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands often.