How Long Does It Take Strep to Go Away?

  • 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.

Ask the experts

I have a strep throat and I have been taking medication for five days now. I have been coughing a lot, too. I was wondering how long the strep bacteria will survive?

Doctor's response

We have no doubt that you had a sore throat. We have no doubt that you are still coughing. But if you have been taking an antibiotic for a strep throat, it may not be that you have (or have ever had) a strep throat, a true strep throat, one that due to a strep bacteria.

A true strep throat that is treated with an appropriate antibiotic (one to which it is sensitive) should, as a rule, be over and done with within a day (24 hours).

The fact that your sore throat did not clear up promptly goes very much against it being a strep. And the fact that you are still coughing 5 days later goes even more strongly against it being a strep.

Sore throats can be due to many causes including, very prominently, a hoard of viruses. A viral sore throat will not respond to an antibiotic and can cause inflammation of the airways (bronchitis). Therefore, a virus that causes a sore throat is quite capable of causing a cough.

Unless there is clear-cut, definite, convincing laboratory proof of a strep, our vote goes to a virus as the best bet.

If your symptoms persist, you should contact your doctor. Hope you feel better.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018