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Strep Throat

Caused by a group A streptococcal infection. Common symptoms include fever, sore throat, and enlarged lymph nodes. Strep throat is a contagious infection, spread through close contact with an infected individual.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: Wikipedia)

About Strep Throat

Many things can cause that unpleasant, scratchy, and sometimes painful condition known as a sore throat. Viruses, bacteria, allergens, environmental irritants (such as cigarette smoke), chronic postnasal drip and fungi can all cause a sore throat.

While many sore throats will get better without treatment, some throat infections—including strep throat—may need antibiotic treatment.

How You Get Strep Throat

Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria (called "group A strep"). Group A strep bacteria can also live in a person's nose and throat without causing illness.

The bacteria are spread through contact with droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes. If you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something that has these droplets on it, you may become ill. If you drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate as the sick person, you could also become ill.

It is also possible to get strep throat from contact with sores from group A strep skin infections. NIH - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Penicillin reduces the risk of streptococcal throat infections and attacks of rheumatic fever in people who have already had a bout of rheumatic fever

Rheumatic fever is a rare complication of throat infection, that can damage the heart. People who have had rheumatic fever can suffer from it again following streptococcal throat infection if they do not receive regular penicillin. Penicillin for prevention can be given by injection or as tablets. Taking tablets is easier but might not work as well as injections. The review of trials compared different ways of giving penicillin. Penicillin seemed to work better as injections than as tablets. Injections given every two or three weeks worked better than when given every four weeks. However, more research is needed.

The effect of short duration versus standard duration antibiotic therapy for streptococcal throat infection in children

Streptococcal (strep) throat infection is very common. A 10‐day course of penicillin is prescribed mainly to protect against the complication of acute rheumatic fever, which can occur approximately 20 days after streptococcal throat and cause damage to the heart valves. Cases of acute rheumatic fever have dropped dramatically in high‐income countries. Newer antibiotics taken for a shorter duration, may have a comparable effect to penicillin taken for 10 days.

Different antibiotics for group A streptococcal pharyngitis

Pharyngitis or tonsillitis, a throat infection that usually presents with a sore throat, is a common upper respiratory tract infection. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, but sometimes bacteria are involved. Many people carry bacteria in their throat without becoming ill. However, sometimes a bacterial throat infection can occur.

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Summaries for consumers

Penicillin reduces the risk of streptococcal throat infections and attacks of rheumatic fever in people who have already had a bout of rheumatic fever

Rheumatic fever is a rare complication of throat infection, that can damage the heart. People who have had rheumatic fever can suffer from it again following streptococcal throat infection if they do not receive regular penicillin. Penicillin for prevention can be given by injection or as tablets. Taking tablets is easier but might not work as well as injections. The review of trials compared different ways of giving penicillin. Penicillin seemed to work better as injections than as tablets. Injections given every two or three weeks worked better than when given every four weeks. However, more research is needed.

The effect of short duration versus standard duration antibiotic therapy for streptococcal throat infection in children

Streptococcal (strep) throat infection is very common. A 10‐day course of penicillin is prescribed mainly to protect against the complication of acute rheumatic fever, which can occur approximately 20 days after streptococcal throat and cause damage to the heart valves. Cases of acute rheumatic fever have dropped dramatically in high‐income countries. Newer antibiotics taken for a shorter duration, may have a comparable effect to penicillin taken for 10 days.

Different antibiotics for group A streptococcal pharyngitis

Pharyngitis or tonsillitis, a throat infection that usually presents with a sore throat, is a common upper respiratory tract infection. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, but sometimes bacteria are involved. Many people carry bacteria in their throat without becoming ill. However, sometimes a bacterial throat infection can occur.

See all (5)

Terms to know

Bacteria
A large group of single-cell microorganisms. Some cause infections and disease in animals and humans. The singular of bacteria is bacterium.
Lymph Nodes
A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called lymph gland.
Streptococcal Infections (Strep Infections)
Any of the several infectious disorders caused by members of streptococcus, a genus of gram positive bacteria belonging to the family Streptococcaceae. Streptococcal infections are classified into Groups A, B, C, D and G.
Throat (Pharynx)
The hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach).

More about Strep Throat

Photo of a child

Also called: Streptococcal pharyngitis

See Also: Scarlet Fever

Other terms to know: See all 4
Bacteria, Lymph Nodes, Streptococcal Infections (Strep Infections)

Related articles:
Fever in Children
Protecting Yourself From Respiratory Infections

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