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How to Treat Strep Throat, According to Doctors



During cold and flu season, it can be difficult to figure out what’s wrong if you start to feel sick. There’s a lot of overlap among the warning signs of illnesses that spike during fall, winter, and even early spring, like the common cold, COVID-19, influenza, and strep throat.

If you or someone you’re caring for has strep, chances are the throat pain will be more intense than that of common viral illnesses—even including COVID-19, Cory Fisher, DO, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. 

Though it’s very pronounced, a sore throat isn’t the only symptom that strep can cause: The infection, which occurs when bacteria known as group A Streptococcus infect the throat and tonsils, can also cause fever; pain when swallowing; red and swollen tonsils; white patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils; swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck; and tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All of this is to say: You’re likely going to feel pretty run down for a few days if you have strep throat, which spreads through the respiratory droplets of, or direct contact with, an infected person. While leaving your house to trek to the doctor’s office might be the last thing you feel like doing, it’s really important to seek medical care if you think you have strep throat.

Not everyone needs to take medication for strep throat, per the CDC. Specifically, “carriers” of the bacteria—or people who test positive, but don’t have any symptoms—usually won’t need treatment. But if you’re symptomatic and you test positive for strep, your doctor is probably going to recommend a treatment plan that includes antibiotics.

A recent warning from the CDC about an uptick in invasive group A strep (iGAS) cases in children means you should also monitor any kids in your life for strep throat symptoms if they’re sick. Act quickly if you think they’ve been infected, since iGAS can be life-threatening for children in some cases, as SELF previously reported.


Below, experts answer questions about strep throat treatment options, and why it’s truly a bad idea to try to “ride it out” without seeing a doctor.

How to get rid of strep throat

If you think you have strep throat, you should make an appointment with a primary care provider so they can test you for the infection ASAP, Waleed Javaid, MD, epidemiologist and director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York, tells SELF. If you don’t have a go-to primary care provider or have trouble making a last-minute appointment, you should go to a local urgent care center to be tested.

The gold standard for treating strep throat is a course of oral antibiotics, Dr. Javaid says. This will help control the infection and minimize the risks of potential complications, which aren’t anything you want to mess with: An untreated strep infection can lead to scarlet fever; inflammation of the kidney; rheumatic fever; a condition called poststreptococcal reactive arthritis, which causes inflammation of the joints; sinus or ear infections; as well as the development of abscesses (pockets of pus) around the tonsils or neck. 

In severe cases—when the infection causes invasive disease (iGAS)—the bacteria can spread to the skin or bloodstream. However, these complications are rare: Out of millions of strep infections each year, only 14,000 to 25,000 are classified as iGAS cases, per the CDC.

Source: Self


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