Strep Throat

Doctor examing young girl's throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus or “group A strep.” In addition to a sore throat, symptoms can include pain when swallowing, a fever, red and swollen tonsils, tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth, or swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck. Your doctor can do a quick strep test to see if group A strep bacteria are causing your sore throat. If the test is positive, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics help you feel better sooner, prevent serious health problems, and help prevent spreading the infection to others.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria (called “group A strep”). However, viruses — not bacteria — cause most sore throats.
  • Group A strep bacteria spread through contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. If you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something that has these droplets on it, you may become ill.
  • No one, not even a doctor, can diagnose strep throat just by looking at your throat. Doctors can swab your throat to see if you have strep throat.
  • People with strep throat should stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
  • Antibiotics taken for strep throat reduce your symptoms and the length of time you’re sick, prevent long-term health problems, and help prevent spreading the infection to friends and family members.

Media

Girl washing hands

Avoid Exposure

Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of germs that cause strep throat and other infections. Do not drink from the same glass, eat from the same plate, or share utensils with someone who is sick.

Doctor examing patient

Know the Symptoms

In addition to a sore throat, symptoms of strep throat can include pain when swallowing, a fever, red and swollen tonsils, tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth, or swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck.

Medication

Antibiotics Get You Well Fast

If you have strep throat, antibiotics reduce your symptoms and the length of time you’re sick. Antibiotics may also prevent spreading the infection to others and prevent complications. Take the prescription exactly as your doctor tells you. Don’t stop taking the medicine, even if you feel better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it.

Girl sleeping

Stay Home

People with strep throat should stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. This will help prevent spreading it to others.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Do not drink from the same glass, eat from the same plate, or share utensils with someone who is sick.
  • If you have strep throat, stay home from work, school, or daycare until you no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. This will help keep others from getting sick.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: June 27, 2019