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Strep Throat

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Updated May 28, 2014

Hispanic doctor checking patient's throat
Blend Images - REB Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

What is Strep Throat?:

A bacterial infection of the throat caused by Group A streptococci.

What are the Symptoms?:

Symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Sore or painful throat
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired
  • White patches in the back of the throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea or stomachache
  • Red rash on torso, known as a scarlet fever rash

Who is Affected by This Illness?:

Strep throat is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Children younger than 5 can get it, as can adults, but it is less common. Strep throat is very rare in children under 3, the streptococcus bacteria will usually affect a different part of the body in these children.

How is it Diagnosed?:

Strep throat is diagnosed by a throat culture taken at your doctor's office. This is called a rapid strep test and can usually give you results in about 5 to 10 minutes.

How is it Treated?:

After you are diagnosed, you will either be given a prescription for oral antibiotics or your doctor may give you a shot of antibiotics. If you take oral antibiotics, it is important to take all of the prescribed amount. If you do not take all of the antibiotics prescribed to you, you may develop antibiotic resistance.

What Happens if I Don't Get Treated?:

Strep throat can lead to several serious illnesses if it is left untreated. The streptococcus bacteria can spread through the body and cause rheumatic fever, kidney problems and other serious complications. Although these complications are rare, they are serious and can be life threatening. It is important to see your doctor if you suspect you may have strep throat.

More Information You Need to Know:

Strep throat is most common during the fall, winter and spring. This is most likely due to the fact that children are in school during these seasons and have more exposure to the illness. When a child is exposed to strep at school, he may come home and expose the rest of the family.

The incubation period for strep throat is 2 to 5 days, meaning that symptoms will not appear for 2 to 5 days after a person is exposed to the illness.

Strep throat is spread by person to person contact. Be sure not to share drinks with a person who is sick and always wash your hands thoroughly. Any contact with saliva or bodily fluids will spread the illness.

Source:

"Group A Streptococcal Infections." Health Matters. Nov 2005. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 5 Mar 2007.

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