Strep Throat - Symptoms

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What are the signs and symptoms of strep throat?

Signs of strep throat are not unique - indeed many viral infections (which cause the large majority of sore throats) can have identical signs and symptoms as a GAS infection. Typically, an older child and adolescent will have several core symptoms such as:

  • Fever (generally 102 F [38.8 C] and higher)
  • Sore throat (may vary from mild to moderate in severity)
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach with nausea occasionally severe enough to cause mild vomiting

Of note is that runny nose, cough, hoarse voice, muscle aches, diarrhea and oral blisters are generally not seen with a strep throat infection. These latter symptoms are more commonly indicative of a sore throat caused by a virus.

Signs of strep throat infection include:

  • Redness of the soft palate, uvula (the "punching bag" structure hanging from the back of the soft palate) and tonsils. Commonly the tonsils may have a bumpy character to their surface - somewhat like a golfball.
  • A purulent discharge on the tonsils (exudate)
  • Petechiae (1-2 mm bright red "dots" which represent ruptured capillaries) scattered on the soft palate. The presence of these "white spots" is often associated with bad breath (halitosis).
  • Enlarged and tender neck lymph nodes (also known as lymph glands), and occasionally
  • A diffuse rash over the torso and groin region. The classic description of this rash is that of "goose bumps on a moderate sunburn."

The presence of a strep infection and this specific rash is termed scarlet fever. Such a diagnosis does not imply a more severe GAS infection or imply any change in prognosis or management. The rash is not contagious. It is important to note that while most patients with strep throat will experience these signs and symptoms, not all will necessarily be present in each individual.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: CC, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: April 28

I experienced sore throat, headache, upset stomach, and fever. All of which were listed as symptoms of strep throat.

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Comment from: Arrgggh my throat..., 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: June 28

I found myself without any medication with a strep throat so bad it made me google a solution and here I am. Everything hurt, like a wire cutting my neck and someone had punched my voice box. I could barely speak and had a fever. I had tried ice, salt, eating honey, and nothing helped. Then someone made me a ginger tea and left me to fend for myself for the day. The ginger was so strong my lips tingled and tongue burnt. It hurt to drink it. Basically about an inch or 2 of ginger root chopped up into 1/4 inch lumps with boiling water on and a spoon of honey/sugar whatever. If it doesn't highly burn tongue, add more. The pain was bad on my throat, I could only drink half, but five minutes later the bite of the throat pain had gone. This allowed be to cough and untangle the phlegm off my voice box without squealing like a pig. I bought a bag of painkillers and sprays and lozenges today, still went back to burningly spicy ginger tea. Pain was gone so I could sleep two hours. Try it, you will thank me, one of the few things that actually works. It won't work for kids as they can't swallow it; burns tongue and lips a bit for a few minutes.

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