A Comprehensive Analysis Of The Relation Between A Headache And A Strep Throat

Strep throat¹ is an infection of the tonsils and throat caused by bacteria. Symptoms include a painful or scratchy throat and white spots on the tonsils. It is highly contagious from infection (two to five days before symptoms begin) to recovery (when all symptoms have subsided).

Strep throat often comes with accompanying headaches. These are usually mild to moderate but can be more severe. Always check in with a doctor if you or your child have headaches that persist or worsen.

This article will investigate the connection between headaches and strep throat.

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How do you get strep throat?

Strep throat can affect anybody at any time of the year, although it is more common in children and during the colder months. Strep throat is caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus. Because the disease is contagious before symptoms appear, an infected individual can easily spread their illness to others without realizing it.

Strep throat is spread through droplets containing bacteria. These land on surfaces, such as doorknobs, sink handles, and light switches, and people who touch these surfaces can get the bacteria on their hands.

If that person touches their eyes, nose, or mouth without washing their hands, the Streptococcus bacteria can get into their body and cause an infection. Sharing utensils or cups with an infected person can also transfer the bacteria into your body.

It’s also possible to get strep throat by getting droplets directly in your eyes, nose, or mouth if an infected person doesn’t cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.

How to know if you have strep throat

The most common symptoms of strep throat include throat pain, pain when swallowing, fever, and headache. These symptoms generally come on abruptly. People with strep throat usually don’t have a cough or a runny nose.

A variety of other conditions can also cause similar symptoms. Most sore throats are caused by viruses rather than bacteria. A throat swab is needed to be sure about the cause of your symptoms. A doctor can perform this test on you.

A doctor uses a rapid strep test to confirm the diagnosis of strep throat when they suspect the condition based on the symptoms and the physical examination findings. They will swab the back of the patient’s throat, and then the rapid strep test can be performed in their office in a few minutes. A positive test indicates that the person has strep throat.

Rapid strep tests can occasionally miss cases of strep throat. If the test comes back negative, but the doctor highly suspects strep throat based on the symptoms and exam, they may order a culture test to look for the bacteria that cause strep throat. This test also uses a throat swab.

It takes 24–48 hours to come back, but it can sometimes catch cases of strep that the rapid test missed.

When should you see a doctor?

If you have a sore throat and a fever, it’s best to see your doctor so they can evaluate you. This is especially true if you’ve recently been in contact with someone who had strep throat or if you have a sore throat and fever but no cough or runny nose. A simple throat swab can diagnose strep throat. In most cases, you can cure the illness with antibiotics. 

If you are diagnosed with strep throat, you should inform anybody you have recently come into contact with, such as co-workers and friends who you’ve seen in the past few days.

If you ignore strep throat, it can cause serious complications. You could develop a tonsillar abscess, a pocket of infection in the tonsil. Strep throat can also lead to inflammation of the kidneys or joints. It can also cause rheumatic fever, which can cause damage to structures throughout the body, including the heart and brain.

Although these complications are uncommon, treating strep throat with antibiotics is best to reduce the risk.

Treatment for a headache and strep throat

Doctor-prescribed antibiotics are effective against strep throat since the infection is bacterial. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may continue to feel symptoms for some time after you start taking antibiotics. You (or your child) must continue taking the prescribed course rather than stop once your symptoms are gone.

This is extremely important to ensure that your infection is completely treated and to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to the medicine.

Recovery from strep throat is easier if you have plenty of rest and fluids. In addition to over-the-counter pain medicines, you can have comforting beverages and snacks like hot tea and ice pops.

Penicillin and amoxicillin are the most commonly used antibiotics for treating strep throat. These are usually given for ten days.

Most people begin to feel better within 24 hours after commencing treatment, but it’s still important to finish the full course of antibiotics — this helps to prevent serious complications.

Antibiotics will help to eliminate the symptoms of strep throat, including headache. You can also use over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), to help relieve your headache. Take this medication exactly as directed and not more than the suggested dosage.

It’s generally not recommended that aspirin be given to kids or teens, as this can sometimes lead to a rare but serious complication known as Reye’s syndrome.

How long do headaches and strep throat last?

Without any treatment, the symptoms of strep throat usually clear up in about a week. However, there’s a chance that it will develop into a more serious illness, so treatment is generally recommended. The headache caused by strep throat will usually go away within a day or two of starting treatment, although it can sometimes take a little longer.

Steps to prevent and care for strep throat

Even if your symptoms disappear before the end of the prescribed antibiotic treatment period, it is still vital that you finish the course in its entirety. 

A common remedy for fever, headache, and sore throat is ibuprofen. This over-the-counter pain reliever is sold under various brand names, like Advil and Motrin. Follow the directions on the bottle to determine the correct dose to use.

It's normal for people to lose their appetite during an illness. As long as they're not dehydrated and are still drinking enough clear liquids, this is nothing to worry about.

While there’s an active case of strep throat in the house, avoid having family members share food or beverages. When you finish using a tissue to blow your nose, make sure that you toss it in the garbage rather than leaving it on a table or counter, where others might touch it and get infected. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and remind children to do the same.

Antibiotics are not generally used in healthy people to prevent strep throat. Instead, anyone in close contact with someone who has recently had strep throat should be checked by a doctor immediately if they start showing symptoms.

You can return to work and social activities once you no longer have a fever and have been taking antibiotics for at least 12 hours. A similar rule applies to a child with strep throat returning to school.


Mild to moderate headaches are a common symptom of strep throat. Other common symptoms include fever, sore throat, and pain while swallowing. Other types of throat infections may also have similar symptoms. Strep throat doesn’t cause a cough or runny nose, while throat infections caused by viruses often do cause these symptoms.

If you or your child develops these symptoms, you should consider seeing a doctor. They can run tests to determine whether you have strep throat. Remember that if a viral infection is causing your sore throat, antibiotics will not help make you better. It’s important not to expect a prescription each time you go to the doctor for a sore throat.

  1. Strep throat: All you need to know | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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