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Strep Throat Infection

Teen Version

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is an inflamed (red and swollen) throat caused by infection with bacteria called Streptococci. It is diagnosed with a throat culture or a rapid strep test at the doctor's office.

With treatment the fever and much of the sore throat are usually gone within 24 hours. It is important to treat strep throat to prevent some rare but serious complications such as rheumatic fever (a disease that affects the heart) or glomerulonephritis (a disease that affects the kidneys).

How do I take care of myself?

  • Antibiotics

    Your antibiotic is ______________________. Your dose is ___________, taken _____ times a day during waking hours for 10 days. Try not to forget any of the doses.

    Take the medicine until all the pills are gone. Even though you will feel better in a few days, take the antibiotic for 10 days to keep the strep throat from flaring up again.

    A long-acting penicillin (Bicillin) injection can be given if it will be impossible for you to take the oral antibiotic regularly. (Note: If taken correctly, the oral antibiotic works just as rapidly and effectively as a shot.)

  • Fever and pain relief

    Gargle warm saltwater (1/4 teaspoon of salt per glass) or an antacid solution. You can suck on hard candy (butterscotch seems to be a soothing flavor). Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for throat pain or fever over 102F (39C).

  • Diet

    Swollen tonsils can make some foods hard to swallow. Eat a diet of soft foods for a few days.

  • Contagiousness

    You are no longer contagious after you have taken the antibiotic for 24 hours. Therefore, you can return to school after one day if you are feeling better and the fever is gone.

  • Throat cultures for the family

    Strep throat can spread to others in the family. Any child or adult who lives in your home and has a fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache, vomiting, sores, doesn't want to eat, or develops these symptoms in the next 5 days should be brought in for a throat culture. In most homes only the people who are sick need throat cultures. (In families where relatives have had rheumatic fever or frequent strep infections, everyone should have a throat culture.) Your health care provider will call you if any of the cultures are positive for strep.

  • Recurrent strep throat and repeat cultures

    Usually repeat cultures are not necessary if you take all of the antibiotic. However, about 10% of people with strep throat don't respond to initial antibiotic treatment. Therefore, if you continue to have a sore throat or mild fever after treatment is completed, return for a second throat culture. If it is positive, you will be retreated with a different antibiotic.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • You have great trouble swallowing (for example, you can't swallow your saliva).
  • You are feeling very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The fever lasts over 48 hours after you start taking an antibiotic.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-12
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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