Pharyngitis: Strep (Presumed)

Two close up views of the throat showing normal tonsils and inflamed tonsils and throat.

You have pharyngitis (sore throat). The healthcare staff may think your sore throat is caused by a bacteria called Group A streptococcus (strep). This is often called strep throat. This is diagnosed by either a rapid strep test, which gives immediate results, or a throat culture, or both. Strep throat can cause throat pain that is worse when swallowing, aching all over, headache, swollen lymph nodes or glands in the neck, and fever. The infection is contagious. It often spreads by coughing, kissing, or touching others after touching your mouth or nose. An antibiotic is given to treat the infection. Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections.

Home care

  • Rest at home. Drink plenty of fluids so you won’t get dehydrated.

  • Stay home from work or school for the first 24 hours of taking the antibiotics, or as directed by the healthcare provider. After this time, you won't be contagious. You can then return to work or school if you are feeling better, or as directed by the provider. 

  • Take the antibiotic medicine for the full 10 days, or as directed by the provider, even when you feel better or your symptoms improve. This is very important to make sure the infection is fully treated. It's also important to prevent medicine-resistant germs from growing. It's also the best way to prevent rheumatic fever, which can affect your heart and other parts of the body. If you were given an antibiotic shot, your provider will tell you if more antibiotics are needed.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain or fever, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your provider before using these medicines.

  • Use throat lozenges or a throat-numbing spray to help reduce throat pain. Gargling with warm salt water can also help reduce throat pain. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 glass of warm water. 

  • Don’t eat salty or spicy foods. These can irritate the throat.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or our staff if you don't feel better in 72 hours, or as directed.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C), or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • New or worse ear pain, sinus pain, or headache

  • Painful lumps in the back of neck

  • Stiff neck

  • Lymph nodes that get larger or neck swelling

  • Can’t open mouth wide due to throat pain

  • Signs of dehydration, such as very dark urine or no urine, sunken eyes, dizziness

  • Noisy breathing

  • Muffled voice

  • New rash

  • Symptoms are worse

  • New symptoms develop

Call 911

Call 911 if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Can't swallow, especially saliva, with a lot of drooling

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing

  • Feeling faint

  • Can't talk

  • Feeling of doom

Prevention

Here are steps you can take to help prevent an infection:

  • Keep good handwashing habits.

  • Don’t have close contact with people who have sore throats, colds, or other upper respiratory infections.

  • Don’t smoke, and stay away from secondhand smoke.

  • Stay up to date with all of your vaccines.

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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