Strep throat is a throat infection caused by a bacteria called group A streptococcus bacteria (group A strep) which live in the nose and throat. When they cause an infection, the throat becomes irritated, inflamed and severely sore.
Although many people assume that a sore throat means strep throat, most sore throats are not strep. Most sore throats are caused by viruses and can be just as painful as a strep throat.
Strep throat is contagious and spreads easily from person to person through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Good hand washing is important to help prevent the spread of this illness. Strep is more common when people are crowded together indoors—especially in the winter.
Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcal bacteria.
Each individual experiences symptoms differently, and symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your otolaryngologist for a diagnosis.
Common symptoms of strep throat can include:
Your otolaryngologist may do a rapid strep screen, a throat culture, or both. The rapid test sometimes yields "false negatives" when strep is actually there. If the test is negative but other symptoms exist, your doctor may swab the infected area to do a culture for the suspected bacteria. Culture results take 24-48 hours, but they rarely miss a case of strep.
Learn more about strep throat tests.
Read about rapid strep throat tests.
Your otolaryngologist will assess your specific condition and prescribe the appropriate course of treatment, most often antibiotics.
You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have strep throat and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced otolaryngologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care by collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community, with its diverse specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities.
Learn more about when to seek care for a strep throat in our health library.
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