How do you know if you might have strep throat?
The following list of strep throat symptoms is not all-inclusive but is the most common symptom of strep throat. None of the symptoms listed below are exclusive to strep and can be present with viral infections such as mononucleosis.
If a test is performed and negative it does not rule out the fact that strep might be the cause. Tests become more sensitive the longer the infection is present as this allows the number of invading bacteria to increase. Click here to learn how strep tests work and reliability.
Here are some strep throat symptoms to watch for:
1) Sore throat – The most obvious symptom for strep although not always present with Strep infections. Some individuals will get Strep infections without the presence of a sore throat. These should be seen by their primary physician to ensure other things don’t need to be addressed. A sore throat should always be present before testing for strep throat.
2) Swollen lymph nodes – Feel the nodes on the side of you or your child’s neck and see if they are tender or enlarged. These will enlarge with viral infections as well and so not indicative of Strep but a sure sign that there is an infection present.
3) Fever – With a Strep infection a fever is almost always present and if not then it is much less likely that Strep is present. A fever of at least 100.5 would be most common with Strep.
4) Rash – A rash is not always present either but can be highly specific for Strep. If you or your child have a sandpaper rash over the abdomen then it is Strep causing the infection. The rash is very fine and feels like rubbing your hand over 200 grit sandpaper. It is red and warm and always on the abdomen and chest. Other rashes can develop but are less specific for Strep. Many people will develop a rash as the body fights off infection and these rashes will be over the entire body.
5) Difficulty swallowing – With Strep you will have a decreased appetite and with the associated pain when swallowing it makes eating less enjoyable. Remember that it is important to keep hydrated and keep your nutrition up so your body can fight the infection.
6) Headache – Usually the headaches are from dehydration and or fever. Drinking plenty of fluids will often prevent these.
7) Body aches – Often related to the fever or dehydration with any illness. Strep can cause an inflammatory response that sometimes affects the joints and neck causing stiffness and pain. An anti-inflammatory like Motrin if not contraindicated will help alleviate these symptoms.
8) White patches on the tonsils or throat – With severe infections large white patches will be seen in the back of the throat. If your strep test is negative it might be necessary to follow up with your primary care doctor to be checked for mono as well.
Those are the most common strep throat symptoms to keep an eye out for. Click here for a list of exclusively visual symptoms of strep throat.
Written By: Dr. Robert Rankins