May 25, 2022

Strep Throat: Your Questions Answered

Woman sitting with a blanket around her shoulders in a living room. She is holding a mug of tea with one hand and holding her throat in pain with the other.

Strep throat is a condition that causes a severe sore throat. Anyone can develop strep throat, but it’s particularly common in children and teens between the ages of 5 and 15. It’s called strep throat because it’s caused by what’s called a group A Streptococcus bacteria. 

Strep throat is highly contagious. The bacteria can be spread from one person to another by coughing, sneezing, sharing food or drinks, or close contact. Consequently, places like daycare centers and schools can be the source of outbreaks. 

What Are the Symptoms of Strep Throat?

Strep throat symptoms typically develop within five days of exposure to the bacteria. The degree of illness varies from person to person, but the common symptoms are:

  • Fever — usually 101˚F (38˚C) or higher — that comes on suddenly
  • Sore throat
  • Redness and white patches in the throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Headache

Less frequently, people with strep throat may experience nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or a rash. These symptoms are more likely to occur in children.

Other viral illnesses share some symptoms with strep throat. If you experience a runny nose, pink eye, a cough, or hoarse voice, you may have one of those illnesses and not strep throat. Your doctor can diagnose your illness. 

Never Miss a Beat

Get the health and wellness news that matters most delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to our free email newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and more.

How Is Strep Throat Treated?

If you’re diagnosed with strep throat, your doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic. There are several that are used to treat strep throat, of which penicillin and amoxicillin are the most commonly prescribed. If you’re allergic to those two antibiotics, a different one will be used. 

Antibiotics reduce strep throat symptoms, help you recover more quickly, and reduce the likelihood that you’ll give the illness to others. You should finish any medication prescribed for you. Stopping early because your symptoms have improved can lead to a relapse and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

What Can I Do to Ease My Strep Throat Symptoms?

In addition to any treatment prescribed by your doctor, you can use the home remedies below to help reduce your strep throat symptoms.

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink warm liquids like tea or lemon water to soothe your throat.
  • Eat soft foods that are less likely to irritate your throat, like yogurt.
  • Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles to help relieve soreness in your throat.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications as directed for pain relief.
  • Suck on throat lozenges. 
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier.
  • Mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of water and gargle it several times a day.

Can Strep Throat Cause Complications?

It’s important to treat strep throat. If you don’t, you could develop a wide variety of potential complications like ear infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, meningitis (inflammation of membranes that line the brain and spinal cord), rheumatic fever, and others.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have Strep Throat?

If you think you have strep throat, you should see your doctor. They can diagnose your illness and prescribe the treatment you need to start feeling better quickly. 

If you don’t yet have a Baptist Health provider, use our online provider directory to find one. 

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider
Get Care Immediately
Strep Throat vs. Sore Throat
[Podcast] Back-to-School Health Tips
Common School-Spread Illnesses

Learn More.