Strep throat is a sore throat caused by bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus. Sore throat is a term for any situation where the throat feels scratchy, tender, and possibly painful.
- What is strep throat?
- Causes of sore throat
- Symptoms of sore throat
- Symptoms of strep throat
- When to see a doctor
- Diagnosis of sore throat
- Diagnosis of strep throat
- Treatment of strep throat
- Prevention of strep throat
Fast facts on strep throat
Here are some key points about strep throat. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria.
- Streptococcal bacteria are extremely contagious.
- Children are more susceptible than adults as their immune systems have had less experience of pathogens.
- If the sore throat is causing difficulty in breathing, seek medical help immediately.
- Diagnosis of strep throat may involve a throat swab.
- Sucking ice cubes can alleviate symptoms.
- Antibiotics will only be prescribed if the infection is bacterial.
What is strep throat?
Strep throat, also known as Streptococcal pharyngitis is a bacterial infection.
Strep throat is a type of sore throat. Sore throat may be caused by bacteria or viruses, while strep throat is only caused by bacteria. The term strep throat is more commonly used in the USA and Canada, compared to other English speaking countries. Strep throat may also be referred to as Streptococcal pharyngitis or streptococcal sore throat.
Streptococcal bacteria are extremely contagious and can spread through airborne droplets when a sick person sneezes or coughs. People may also become infected by touching surfaces which an infected person had previously touched, such as a doorknob, kitchen utensils and bathroom objects.
Most sore throats are not usually serious and the infected person generally improves within three to seven days without treatment. They are more common among children and adolescents. This is because younger people's bodies have not been exposed to as many viruses and bacteria as older people's - they have not built up immunity to many of them. It is not uncommon for people of any age to have a couple of bouts of sore throat in a one-year period.
Causes of sore throatThe following conditions generally include a sore throat. These conditions are usually caused by an infection: inflammation (swelling) in the back of the throat (oropharynx) and tonsils (laryngeal lymphoid nodules).
Infections can be caused by the streptococcus bacteria (causing strep throat) or viruses. However, sore throats can also be caused by the following non-infectious factors (less common):
- Cancer (extremely rare)
- Throat surgery (Licorice gargle helps sore throat symptoms after surgery)
- Alcohol consumption (rare)
- Hay fever
- Acid reflux (gastro-esophageal reflux)
- Screaming for a long time (e.g. fans during a sporting event).
On the next page, we look at symptoms of sore throat and strep throat, and how these conditions are diagnosed.