Strep throat

  • Alternative Names

    Pharyngitis - streptococcal; Streptococcal pharyngitis


    Most sore throats are caused by viruses, not strep-related bacteria. Strep cannot be accurately diagnosed by symptoms or a physical exam alone. Many of the other causes of sore throats may have the same symptoms.

    Sore throats should only be treated with antibiotics if the strep test is positive. Antibiotics are taken to prevent rare but more serious health problems, such as rheumatic fever.

    Penicillin or amoxicillin is usually first tried. Antibiotics should be taken for 10 days, even though symptoms are usually gone after few days.

    The following tips may help your sore throat feel better:

    • Drink warm liquids such as lemon tea or tea with honey.
    • Gargle several times a day with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup water).
    • Drink cold liquids or suck on popsicles.
    • Suck on hard candies or throat lozenges. Young children should not be given such products because they can choke on them.
    • A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can moisten and soothe a dry and painful throat.
    • Try over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Symptoms of strep throat usually get better in about 1 week. Untreated, strep can lead to serious complications.


    On rare occasions, strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever if it is not treated. Strep throat may also cause a rare kidney complication called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

    • Ear infection
    • Sinusitis
    • Mastoiditis
    • Peritonsillar abscess
    • Rheumatic fever
    • Glomerulonephritis
    • Scarlet fever

    Calling your health care provider

    Call if you develop the symptoms of strep throat. Also, call if you are being treated for strep throat and are not feeling better within 24 - 48 hours.