Is Strep Throat Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Strep Throat Symptoms

Streptococcus infection (strep throat ) symptoms are related to the inflammation of the throat and surrounding tissues.

Common symptoms of strep throat are

  • mild to severe sore throat
  • redness and swelling of the throat
  • white spots or patches on the tonsils, and...

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is a throat infection usually caused by group A streptococcal bacteria. Strep throat is often accompanied by fever. Strep throat is one of many causes of inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis). Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat. Streptococcus spp. are the most common bacterial species to cause strep throat (15%-30% of pharyngitis in children and about 5 to 10% in adults).

Is strep throat contagious?

Strep throat is contagious for about 2-3 weeks in individuals that do not take antibiotics. However, individuals that take antibiotics for strep throat usually are no longer contagious about 24 hours after initiating antibiotic therapy. The bacteria that cause strep throat can be transmitted person-to-person by direct contact, especially from mucus droplets from the mouth and indirect contact, such as kissing and sharing utensils or drinking cups.

How do I know I have strep throat?

The incubation period for strep throat varies about 1-5 days after exposure to the bacteria. If a person develops a sore throat and a fever, they should consider the possibility they have strep throat, especially if another family member or a coworker has been diagnosed with the disease. The pattern of symptoms of strep throat are

  • sore throat,
  • fever (usually greater than 102 F or 38.8 C), and
  • whitish or yellowish pus areas on the tonsils and throat.

Some persons with strep throat also may develop

Strep throat is often accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Rarely, a person with strep throat  can develop a rash.

If a person has a runny nose, constant sneezing and coughing, it actually is less likely that they have strep throat.

Strep throat is diagnosed by the medical history, physical examination of the throat, and with a rapid strep test on a swab of the throat. The rapid strep test can be confirmed by a throat culture. However, most physicians will diagnose and begin treatment before a throat culture test is completed.

There are many other causes of sore throat including many viruses, bacteria other than strep, allergies, acid reflux, and tumors. Your physician can help sort through these causes of sore throat.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/7/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors