Strep throat, also known as streptococcal pharyngitis, is a bacterial infection that causes a painful sore throat and a fever. Bacterial strep throat will usually go away on its own after a few days, but it’s recommended that you take antibiotics to prevent complications such as rheumatic fever.¹
Usually passed directly from person to person through talking, coughing, sneezing, or sharing dishes or utensils, strep throat is highly contagious. You can also get strep throat by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
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Strep throat is a common condition caused by group A Streptococcus bacterium. It causes inflammation and pain in the throat. According to the CDC, some of the most common symptoms of strep throat include:
Sudden sore throat
Pain when swallowing
Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white streaks of pus
Petechiae, or tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
It’s possible to have many of these symptoms and not have strep throat. Viral infections such as colds or flu may cause similar symptoms. If you also have a runny nose, hoarse voice, and cough on top of the pain in your throat, a viral infection is the most likely cause of your symptoms.
In some cases, people with strep throat may have no signs or symptoms. Others may experience less common symptoms of the disease. People who test positive for strep throat but show no symptoms are called carriers.
While anyone can get strep throat, children and certain adults are at increased risk of getting ill. Strep throat is most common in children 5 through 15 years old. It’s very rare for children younger than three to get strep throat.
When it comes to adults, parents of school-aged children, and anyone who is often in contact with children, are at increased risk for strep throat. This includes adults who work at schools, daycare centers, and other settings where large groups of children gather.
You can test for strep throat at home using a rapid strep test kit. It is available over the counter at drugstores.
Generally, you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for a rapid strep test kit. Rapid strep test kits are quick and easy to use at home, providing results in as little as five minutes.
Strep throat is treated with antibiotics. Doctors will prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin as the first-choice treatment for people who are not allergic to penicillin. However, strep throat can usually go away on its own, even without antibiotics.
While strep throat self-care can help you manage the condition at home, we highly recommend you see a doctor if you are concerned you may have strep throat. If you don’t get the treatment for your strep throat infection, you may be contagious for two to three weeks and at a higher risk for complications.
The symptoms of strep throat can be very painful. Even with antibiotics, a strep throat infection may take several days to clear, and symptoms typically get better in about a week. Luckily, some home remedies can reduce pain and make you more comfortable while you wait for your symptoms to improve.
Find relief for your sore throat now with these helpful strep throat self-care tips.
Drinking plenty of water is essential, especially when you are not feeling well. Your body needs fluids to fight off infections effectively.
Ensure that you are giving your body ample time to rest. Your immune system functions better when you are well-rested.
Eating soft, bland foods can decrease the pain from swallowing when your throat hurts. Focus on soups, yogurt, pasta, and steamed vegetables. Avoid crunchy, acidic, or spicy foods, which can cause further irritation.
Saltwater can help to reduce inflammation in the throat. Gargle with warm, salty water to help soothe a painful throat and shorten how long the pain lasts.
Bone broth, such as chicken soup, while not a cure, might have anti-inflammatory properties. The warmth can relieve sore throat and is also a great source of hydration while you’re ill.
Honey has been shown to have a potent effect against many bacteria. Its natural antibacterial properties make it great for many things, including soothing a painful throat from a strep throat infection.
If you have strep throat, you may also try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (e.g., panadol) and ibuprofen (e.g., Advil), to alleviate throat pain and reduce fever.
Remember that some home remedies could make things worse, especially if they are not proven. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are unsure if a home remedy or over-the-counter treatment suits your condition.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the throat. Seek medical attention if you are concerned you may have strep throat, which requires antibiotics to prevent complications.
If you follow the full treatment prescribed by your doctor, your symptoms will typically go away in about seven days.
You can try some strep throat self-care tips to ease your symptoms while waiting for the infection to clear up. These include gargling salt water, taking plenty of rest, and drinking lots of water. While some of these remedies are not scientifically proven, they can be soothing and are unlikely to cause any harm.
Remember that while strep throat self-care can decrease the discomfort or pain associated with it, it does not replace needing a consultation with a doctor to see if antibiotics are required.
Rheumatic fever: All you need to know | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Strep throat: All you need to know | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What is strep throat? | Health University of Utah
Pharyngitis (Strep throat) | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Strep throat (Streptococcal pharyngitis) | Penn Medicine
What do doctors mean when they say ‘drink plenty of fluids’? | Washington Post
Sleep and immune function (2012)
Nutrition tips for managing difficulty swallowing | Pearl Point
Does chicken soup really help fight a cold? | CNN Health