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What Does the Beginning of Strep Throat Look Like?

Reviewed on 11/17/2020

What Is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that usually starts with a sore throat and swollen tonsils, often streaked with white pus and accompanied by tiny red dots in the mouth and throat.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that usually starts with a sore throat and swollen tonsils, often streaked with white pus and accompanied by tiny red dots in the mouth and throat.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that is a common cause of sore throat.

What Are Symptoms of Strep Throat?

Symptoms of strep throat often come on quickly and the beginning of strep throat looks like:

  • Swollen tonsils
  • Swollen uvula
  • Red throat
  • White patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils, back of the throat, and tongue
  • Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth 
  • Whitish, furry film on the tongue 

Symptoms of strep throat include:

What Causes Strep Throat?

Strep throat is caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus (group A strep).

Group A strep live in the nose and throat and can be contagious. When a person who has strep coughs or sneezes, they release respiratory droplets with the bacteria into the air. It takes about two to five days after exposure to group A strep to develop symptoms.

Strep can be transmitted when people:

  • Inhale the respiratory droplets
  • Touch something with droplets on it and then touch their mouth or nose
  • Share glasses, plates, or utensils with an infected person
  • Touch sores on the skin caused by group A strep (impetigo)
  • Eat food not handled properly (rare)

How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

Strep throat is diagnosed with: 

  • A rapid strep test
    • A swab is taken of the throat 
    • The swab is tested to see if strep bacteria are present in the patient’s throat
    • Results are usually available in about 15 minutes
  • Throat culture
    • Sometimes a rapid strep test is negative but a doctor still suspects strep so further testing is done
    • A throat culture swab can take 2-3 days to yield results but is more accurate than a rapid strep test

SLIDESHOW

Sore Throat or Strep Throat? How to Tell the Difference See Slideshow

What Is the Treatment for Strep Throat?

Antibiotics are used to treat strep throat.

  • Penicillin or amoxicillin are the first-line choices 
  • Other antibiotics may be used in people who are allergic to penicillin
  • If antibiotics are prescribed, take the entire dose as prescribed even if you feel better before you have finished all the medication

If a person tests positive for strep throat but has no symptoms (is a “carrier”) treatment is often not needed. 

What Are Complications of Strep Throat?

Complications of strep throat may occur if the bacteria spreads to other parts of the body and can include:

How Do You Prevent Strep Throat?

People can have recurrent infections with strep throat. The illness may be prevented in some cases by: 

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or upper arm or elbow, not the hands, if a tissue is not available (discard used tissues immediately)
  • Washing glasses, utensils, and plates thoroughly after someone who is infected uses them

If you have strep throat: 

  • Stay home from work or school until you no longer have a fever and you have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours
  • Take the full course of antibiotics exactly as prescribed 

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Reviewed on 11/17/2020
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