In previous articles, we have covered that strep throat is a throat infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for two reasons: one, strep is very contagious and easily transmitted in places where people are close to one another, like schools and offices; two, if left untreated, strep can lead to serious complications including rheumatic fever and kidney failure. But what are the signs of strep throat? Anyone suffering from the following symptoms should get themselves tested as soon as possible!
Signs of Strep Throat
1. Sore Throat
Throat ache is one of the most common signs of Strep Throat. It causes a feeling of rawness, almost like an itch at the back of the throat. That pain makes it difficult to swallow or speak loudly.
Another one of the most common signs of Strep Throat is a fever. Sometimes this fever is high and comes on suddenly. Taking fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help you feel better, but they will also mask any fever your body may be producing. So, keep in mind, if you have taken these medications, the thermometer might not show a fever, even though you have one.
3. Red and Enlarged Tonsils
Infection in the tonsils will cause them to appear red, swollen, and have white or yellowish spots. There may also be streaks of pus covering the tonsils. You can see your tonsils by looking in the mirror, sticking your tongue way out and saying ‘ahhhhhhh’ (see diagram below). Keep an eye on your tonsils because this is another one of the most common signs of Strep Throat.
4. Inflamed Lymph Nodes in Neck
Lymph nodes are bean-shaped glands found in the neck, armpits, chest, groin, and abdomen. Lymph nodes are part of your immune system and work hard to help your body fight infection. When these nodes are actively fighting an infection, they get large and painful. So, one of the common signs of Strep Throat is swollen and painful lymph nodes in the neck. The neck region may be lumpy and sore to touch. If the neck region swells up and you have a sore throat, or the other symptoms listed here, seek medical attention!
5. Skin Rash
Another one of the signs of Strep Throat infections is skin rash. Strep can cause a rash to develop on the neck, chest or the back, especially in babies and the elderly who have weak immune systems. Once you notice a rash on your body, get in touch with a doctor who may prescribe antibiotics if a strep infection is detected.
6. Stomach Ache and/or Vomiting
In some cases, particularly those of young children, Strep Throat produces symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to the throat condition. Some of the most common signs of Strep Throat are stomach aches, nausea and/or vomiting. These symptoms might eventually lead to dehydration in these young patients and can become dangerous and debilitating, impeding the routine functioning of the affected individual.
While this is a summary of common signs of Strep Throat, in no way is this an exhaustive list! Everybody is different and may manifest Strep throat in slightly different ways; however, this gives you a good starting point! If you start to see these common signs of Strep Throat in yourself or your child, please seek medical attention.
Written By: Angela Fusaro, MD, MBA