Scratchy throat? Painful to swallow? We've all been there. Sore throats can really put a damper on your day, and it is one of the most common ailments in many illnesses in children and adults. Although most cases of sore throats are caused by a viral agent or allergies, according to Healthline research, about 25% are attributed to a bacterial infection or strep.
You may have had strep as a kid, as it is most common in school-aged children, but what exactly is it? Here's the short answer: Strep throat is a bacterial infection on your tonsils or in the back of your throat. The bacteria that causes the infection is Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci (GAS) or Streptococcus pyogenes. (That's why we call it strep.)
It's important to know if you do have Strep throat, as it is highly contagious and may require antibiotics. People who are infected with strep can easily spread the bacteria just by talking, sneezing, or coughing. It usually takes two to five days for someone exposed to strep throat to become ill and start feeling it. With that said, wash your hands often and keep scrolling to learn about some of the most typical symptoms in both children and adults.
Common Symptoms of Strep Throat Include:
- Sore throat (usually first symptom)
- Pain when swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils, with white spots (pus)
- Tiny, red spots called petechiae on the roof of the mouth
- Swollen glands and lymph nodes in the front of the neck
Other symptoms may include a headache, stomach pain, or nausea. Some people may also develop a rash with strep throat, which is known as scarlet fever.
Symptoms that do not typically come with strep throat are:
- Runny nose
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Looking for signs and knowing the symptoms is a good start, but the only sure-tell way to actually know if you have strep throat is to get tested.
What is a Strep Throat Test?
Strep throat tests look for group A streptococcus (GAS) bacteria. There are two types of tests: a rapid antigen test (gets results in minutes), and a throat culture that is sent to a lab for a deeper dive. If you think that you or your little one has the signs of strep, you can use an at-home rapid test for quick results so that you can skip the doctor's visit. Checkable's Rapid Test even comes with a telemed consultation, so you can get antibiotics called into your nearest pharmacy in under 30 minutes.
Testing for Strep throat is essential because it spreads like wildfire, and if left untreated, complications can arise, such as rheumatic fever or more severe infections. If your test is positive, antibiotics are usually prescribed for ten days, but you should start to feel better within 48 hours. If your test comes back negative, chances are it's a cold or seasonal allergies that can irritate the throat. Taking antibiotics when not needed can cause resistance making them eventually ineffective. So, get tested!