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Red tonsils with white spots is a common symptom of strep throat.

Red tonsils with white spots is a common symptom of strep throat.
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Strep throat

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is an infection of the throat caused by bacteria called streptococci. There are different types of streptococci. The type that causes serious sore throats and needs to be treated with antibiotics is a Group A streptococcus.

Strep throat infections are very contagious. They are usually passed directly from person to person.

Strep throat is common in school-age children. Children under 2 years old and adults not exposed to children are much less likely to get strep throat.

Strep throat symptoms

The symptoms of a strep throat infection may include:

Strep throat diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine your throat. They may rub a cotton swab against a tonsil in the back of your throat to get a sample of bacteria.

The sample will be tested in a lab. The results will be available in an hour or less if the rapid antibody test is done, or in 1 to 2 days if the overnight culture test is used.

Strep throat treatment

If your doctor suspects you have strep throat, they may prescribe an antibiotic before you have all the results from the lab tests. It is very important to take all of the prescribed medicine, even after the symptoms have gone away, to prevent the infection from coming back.

Strep needs to be treated so you can prevent serious problems it might cause, such as rheumatic fever, which can damage the heart valves and affect your joints and brain, and lead to heart disease.

The symptoms of strep throat may go away as soon as 24 hours after you start treatment. The symptoms rarely last longer than 5 days.

Last reviewed: September 2015

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