Strep throat is just one of several possible causes of throat infection and sore throat. Although strep throat is most common in children and adolescents, it can affect people of all ages.
Though many people use the terms sore throat, tonsillitis, and strep throat interchangeably, there are significant clinical differences between these problems. Awareness of the differences can give people a better idea of how and when to be concerned and when to look for advice from a doctor.
What causes strep throat?
Strep throat has several causes. The most common causes of strep throat are bacterial infections of the throat and the surrounding structures. Any inflammation or infection of the pharynx, tonsils, esophagus (the food pipe), or larynx (the top opening part of the windpipe) can cause strep throat.
Common symptoms of signs strep throat
Throat infection with strep bacteria is contagious and can cause a variety of symptoms associated with inflammation of the throat and its nearby structures. Symptoms usually begin within a few days (1-4 days) after contracting the infection (incubation period).
• Throat pain
• Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
• Difficulty swallowing
• 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
• Stomachache and sometimes vomiting, especially in younger children
It’s possible for you or your child to have many of these signs and symptoms, but not have strep throat. The cause of these signs and symptoms could be a viral infection or some other kind of sickness. That’s the reason why your doctor typically tests specifically for strep throat.
It’s also possible to have the bacteria that can cause strep in your throat without having a sore throat. A few people are carriers of strep, which means they can transfer the bacteria on to others, but the bacteria are not currently causing them sick. It’s also possible to have the bacteria that can cause strep in your throat without having a sore throat. Some people are carriers of strep, which means they can pass the bacteria to others, but the bacteria are not currently making them sick.