Strep Throat

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is an infection of the throat caused by a bacteria called Group A Strep or Streptococcus pyogenes. The bacteria can be spread via airborne droplets or saliva such as when sharing food or drinks. Crowded conditions, such as schools and daycare centers, increase the risk of spreading the disease.

Signs and symptoms of strep throat can include:

  • Throat pain and painful swallowing  
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Red spots on the roof of the mouth or palate
  • Swollen and red tonsils, on occasion white patches
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting and abdominal pain  
  • Body aches
  • Fine sandpaper-like rash, also known as scarlet fever

Strep bacteria may also cause infection in the sinuses, middle ear and skin.

Testing and diagnosis for strep throat

If your child has signs and symptoms of strep throat, a throat swab may be performed in the office. A rapid test, which takes approximately five minutes, can determine if your child has strep throat. If the test in negative, a strep culture is send out to the laboratory for confirmation. This may take 48-72 hours for the results to come back.

Treatment for strep throat

Strep throat can be treated with an oral antibiotic, such as penicillin or amoxicillin for 10 days unless your child is allergic, in which case, an alternative antibiotic will be prescribed. In addition to decreasing the length of illness and symptoms, taking antibiotics will help prevent spreading the bacteria to others. Once your child is feeling better and is fever free, he or she can return to school.

Left untreated, strep throat can cause complications, such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.

Reviewed by Chun H. Yin, MD, FAAP

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