Strep throat is an infection caused by bacteria. It is called "strep" because the bacteria that causes the infection is called streptococcus.
Yes. You can pass the strep infection to other people until you have been treated with an antibiotic for 1 to 3 days. Children who have strep throat should not go back to school or day care until their fever has gone away and they have taken an antibiotic for at least 24 hours.
You can also prevent the spread of strep throat by frequently washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoiding sharing food utensils (such as drinking glasses) while you are sick.
This could happen, but it is very rare.
The symptoms of strep throat include the following:
In addition to the symptoms listed above, children may also have the following symptoms:
Your doctor may use a test called the rapid strep test. For this test, the doctor uses a long cotton swab to take some of the mucus from the back of your throat. The results of this test can be ready in about 15 minutes.
Your doctor may also do a culture of the mucus. A sample of the mucus is sent to a laboratory. This test is called a throat culture. It can take up to 2 days to learn the results of a strep culture.
The rapid strep test and the culture can tell your doctor if you have strep throat. If something else is causing your sore throat, these tests do not tell what it is.
Strep throat is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria, which helps ease the symptoms of strep throat and helps it go away a little faster. It can also prevent a few rare but serious conditions that people who have strep throat might develop, such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.
It is important to take all of the antibiotics your doctor prescribes. This reduces the risk that your symptoms will return and also helps prevent antibiotic resistance.
No. Not every sore throat is strep throat. Bacteria only cause a small portion of all sore throats. The rest are caused by viruses or other problems that antibiotics do not help. Your doctor can do a test to check for strep throat.
Here are some things that might help you feel better:
Management of Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcal Pharyngitis by CS Hayes, MD, MHA; H Williamson, Jr, MD, MSPH (American Family Physician April 15, 2001, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20010415/1557.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff