A Quick Guide To Strep Throat
Who Needs Strep Throat Testing?
Adult and pediatric patients commonly develop a sore throat, especially during the winter months and frequently associated with the common cold. Strep throat is caused by a specific bacteria know as ‘Group A Beta-hemolytic Streptococcus’ (GABHS). The majority of sore throats are due to viral illness and only 15-35% of sore throats in children and 5-10% of sore throats in adults are caused by strep. Although strep needs to be treated with antibiotics, the majority of patients with a sore throat do not need strep testing or to be treated with antibiotics. Evidence based clinical guidelines have been developed to help health care providers determine who should be tested and treated for strep throat.
Signs/Symptoms Suggestive of Strep Throat
- Fever >100.4 in past 24 hours
- Tender glands in front part of neck
- Large, red tonsils or red throat
- No cough
Signs/Symptoms Suggestive of Viral Sore Throat
- Cough or runny nose
- Red or watery eyes
- Sores in throat
Treatment For Strep Throat
Antibiotics (penicillins remain the first choice) should be prescribed if you are diagnosed with strep throat to prevent the development of rheumatic fever. Remember, strep cannot be diagnosed by just looking in the throat; a lab test must also be done. Take the antibiotic for the full course as directed and the infected patient should stay home. Also avoid work, school or daycare until 24 hours after starting the antibiotic. Unnecessary antibiotic use increases the likelihood of developing resistant bacteria that will not be killed by common antibiotics in the future. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections.
In summary to make your symptoms better, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen, dosed for weight in children, to relieve fevers and pain. Warm salt water gargles for older children and adults (1/4 tsp salt in 1 cup warm water), in addition with throat lozenges and hard candy or ice chips for adults and older children. Get plenty of rest, also drink plenty of water.
Seek Immediate Care if the sore throat is associated with:
- Difficulty breathing or drooling because the patient can’t swallow
- Stiff neck
- Fever > 103
- Inability to open mouth due to pain
Original post date: May, 2011. Revised: September, 2019.
These blogs were written by the CHI Health Primary Care Team.