Symptoms of strep throat can include irritation, pus buildup, white patches, and small red spots in the throat.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that results from contact with the A Streptococcus bacteria. This bacteria can be present in a person’s nose and throat and transmits via airborne droplets in their breath. Step A infections are typically easily treatable with antibiotics.

This article details the symptoms, causes, and treatments of strep throat.

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Strep throat can cause many uncomfortable symptoms. Examples include:

When a person with strep throat opens their mouth and looks inside, they will likely see:

  • The back of the roof of the mouth is inflamed and reddened. This area is called the soft palate.
  • An uvula that appears swollen and red and may be covered with white or yellow patches. This is the small piece of flesh that hangs from the back of the soft palate.
  • Tonsils that are enlarged and extend past the soft palate. They may have white or yellow patches or streaks covering them. The tonsils are the two masses at the back of the throat, one on either side.
  • The back of the throat may have small red bumps or streaks on it.

Below are pictures of strep throat.

A ‘sore throat’ is an umbrella term encompassing many conditions and causes. A person’s throat may be sore due to injury, burns, infections, and irritation from acid reflux or allergies. Strep throat is a singular form of the latter, and doctors can perform tests to differentiate it from other causes.

A visual examination and a strep test can typically diagnose strep throat. A strep test involves using a swab to take a saliva sample from the back of the throat. Doctors can test this sample for the presence of strep bacteria.

In addition to a visual exam and quick strep test, there are a few symptoms that could indicate that it is strep throat rather than another illness. For example, a strep infection is more likely to involve a fever than a viral infection.

Another difference is that strep throat usually doesn’t cause a cough, runny nose, or watery eyes. Viral infections and mucus in the throat from allergies or other conditions are more likely to cause a cough.

After confirming the diagnosis, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics, usually penicillin or amoxicillin.

Antibiotics can shorten the time that symptoms last, reduce the risk of transmitting the bacteria to others, and lessen the chance of further conditions, such as rheumatic fever, developing.

If the sore throat is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not work and they will not be prescribed.

The bacteria that cause strep throat are group A Streptococcus. This bacteria can live in the human body without causing any symptoms but can still transmit at this stage.

Droplets in a person’s breath can carry infectious bacteria. Sneezing, sharing utensils, or touching an object after a person with strep throat has touched it can all spread the infection.

People with weakened immune systems, open wounds, and those already experiencing viral infections such as colds and the flu may be more likely to get strep throat.

Anyone with a fever greater than 101 F and other strep throat symptoms should see their doctor. The presence of a fever can signal a bacterial infection that antibiotics may be able to treat.

In severe instances, strep throat can cause infections in areas other than the throat. Examples include any peritonsillar abscesses, ear, and blood. For this reason, it is important to seek treatment and to get a definitive diagnosis.

Peritonsillar abscesses are areas of pus-filled tissues at the back of the throat, next to the tonsils.

Antibiotics won’t treat other causes of an irritated throat, and taking medicines that aren’t needed can mean they work less well when someone really does have a bacterial infection.

Strep throat will usually go away without treatment.

However, the risk of some complications increases without treatment:

A doctor may recommend treatment with antibiotics to prevent these. Recurrent episodes may require tonsillectomy.

Strep throat is a bacterial respiratory infection that can cause inflammation, soreness, and discoloration in the throat.

The infection can be transmitted between people through airborne vapors and through contact with the bacteria on surfaces.

Serious complications are uncommon, and people may carry the infection without symptoms. Doctors can prescribe antibiotics to treat the underlying infection, and recovery is typically quick.