What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Strep Throat?
In those individuals who develop strep throat, the symptoms usually begin between 1 to 4 days after initially acquiring the infection (incubation period). The symptoms can range from mild to severe. The sore throat associated with strep throat is usually described as starting rather suddenly, and the tonsils and the back of the throat may appear red and swollen. Swallowing is usually painful, and thus some individuals may have varying degrees of dehydration due to lack of adequate fluid intake.
Often times, however, it can be difficult for healthcare professionals to diagnose strep throat based on symptoms alone, as strep throat and a sore throat due to a viral infection can often have similar overlapping symptoms. However, the presence and absence of certain symptoms can make strep throat more likely.
In general, the common signs and symptoms of strep throat include the following:
- Sore throat
- Red and swollen/inflamed tonsillitis)
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the upper neck (cervical lymphadenopathy)
- White patches or spots on the tonsils (tonsillar exudate)
Individuals with strep throat can experience other associated signs and symptoms as well, which may include any of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- General discomfort, feeling ill or uneasy
- Loss of appetite
- Small punctate red spots on the soft or hard palate (the roof of the mouth)
- Skin rash (scarlet fever)
Although the presence of runny nose, cough, hoarseness, eye redness, muscle aches, ulcers in the mouth, and diarrhea make a viral infection more likely, the possibility of strep throat must still be considered by the health care professional. As previously mentioned, strep throat is most common between 5 to 15 years of age, though it can affect individuals of almost any age. Consequently, strep throat can sometimes manifest differently depending on the age of the affected individual, and special considerations must therefore be taken into account.
- Strep throat symptoms in infants: Strep throat in this age group is uncommon. Infants may feed less and appear irritable and fussy. A low-grade fever and nasal discharge may be present as well.
- Strep throat symptoms in children: Children will often complain of sore throat and painful swallowing. They also may eat less and complain of abdominal pain.
- Strep throat symptoms in older children and teenagers: Strep throat in this age group can be extremely uncomfortable, with individuals often complaining of a severe sore throat. The fever can be high and they may be ill-appearing.
- Strep throat symptoms in adults: Typically adults have milder symptoms and they may complain only of a mild sore throat. However, more severe symptoms are still possible in adults.
Occasionally, some people develop bad breath (stinky tonsils) when tonsilloliths (whitish deposits on and in tonsils) develop. These deposits are often dislodged when the patient coughs, but in some individuals food particles get trapped and bacteria attack the food particles and produce the bad odor. Removal of these deposits may be done by a qualified healthcare professional.