Know the Tell-Tale Signs of Strep

It’s sore and scratchy. But every sore throat feels that way. While only a small number of sore throats are strep, it’s important to know the tell-tale signs of group A streptococcus—a highly contagious bacteria.

According to Erie family physician Christopher Clark, DO, strep occurs most frequently in children ages 5-15, but anyone of any age can get it. Strep also appears most frequently during the late fall, winter and early spring. Symptoms often last 3-4 days and include:

  • Fever of 101-103 degrees
  • Throat pain
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Tiny red spots on the soft or hard palate—the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen, tender lymph glands (nodes) in your neck
  • Headache
  • Sandpaper-like rash
  • Stomach ache and sometimes vomiting, especially in younger children

“It’s important to note that the symptoms of strep do not include a cough or runny nose. If you have fever, sore throat and either of those, it may not be strep,” adds Dr. Clark. “But it’s always a good idea to call your doctor, especially if there’s a high fever.”

Can strep be prevented?

“It’s the same as any contagious illness. The best practice is the same as for the flu – wash your hands thoroughly and avoid obviously sick people. If you do contract strep, stay home to keep from infecting others,” Dr. Clark says.

Strep should be taken seriously. Group A strep bacteria can also cause rheumatic fever which can lead to permanent heart damage.

“Always err on the side of caution,” notes Dr. Clark. “Treat strep promptly. Good old fashioned penicillin does the trick; just make sure to take the full prescribed course of antibiotics.”