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Strep Throat: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Strep throat is a common bacterial infection that affects the throat and tonsils — and with school back in session, we’ll be seeing more and more cases. 

It is caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria and is highly contagious, so it spreads easily in a school setting. 

Understanding the symptoms and diagnosis of strep throat is essential in preventing complications and ensuring prompt, proper treatment.

Symptoms of strep throat

The symptoms of strep throat can vary in severity and may include:

  • Sore throat that develops suddenly
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Red, swollen tonsils with white patches or pus
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting (belly ache)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

In some cases, people with strep throat also experience a rash or body aches — though these symptoms are less common.

Diagnosing strep throat

Diagnosing strep throat requires a physical exam and may involve laboratory testing — such as a rapid strep test or throat culture. 

During the physical exam, the doctor will examine the throat and tonsils for signs of inflammation and ask about symptoms.

A rapid strep test involves swabbing the back of the throat to detect the presence of streptococcal bacteria within minutes. 

In some cases, a throat culture may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. A throat culture involves swabbing the back of the throat and sending it to a laboratory to grow for several days.

Tips on avoiding strep throat

Having healthy habits can help prevent the spread of strep:

  • Wash your hands. Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly — especially before meals, after using the restroom and after coughing or sneezing. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when they cough or sneeze. This helps prevent the spread of respiratory droplets containing germs.
  • Don’t eat or drink after others. Your child shouldn’t share utensils, drinks or other personal items with others.
  • Keep it clean. See if the class would accept donations of disinfecting wipes and sprays to clean desks, doorknobs and other surfaces.
  • If sick, stay home. If a child has any of the symptoms listed above, they should stay home. 

With strep, get help when symptoms start

If you suspect your child has strep throat, seek medical attention promptly. 

Treatment typically involves antibiotics to eliminate the infection and alleviate symptoms. Untreated, strep throat can lead to complications like rheumatic fever and kidney damage. 

Recognizing the symptoms and seeking timely diagnosis and treatment, your child can quickly recover from strep throat and reduce the risk of complications.

If you need quick care for strep throat, check out our wait times and check-in with our OnMyWay feature in your Tanner MyChart app or at TannerUrgentCare.org

We have locations in Carrollton, Villa Rica and Bremen to serve you, open weekdays, weekends and evenings. 

Tanner Health System, Children's Health Care, Emergency Care, Primary Care, Pediatric Care

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