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Is Strep Throat Contagious?

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The list of common illnesses that you can contract is a long one; it can be hard to keep track of which ones are contagious and which aren’t. Strep throat is one of the contagious ones. If you were recently in contact with someone diagnosed with strep and you now have a sore throat, there’s a good chance you’ve contracted it from him or her. But just how contagious is strep throat really and how it can get passed from person to person? While you wait to see a doctor for a professional diagnosis, here is the rundown on all things strep throat:

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils due to a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes, also called group A streptococcus. As the name suggests, strep primarily affects the throat, but a sore throat is only one of the symptoms of this disease. Other symptoms can include: 

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Fever
  • Tiny, red spots (petechiae) on the roof of your mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
  • Body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children

How Strep Throat Is Spread

Because strep throat is a bacterial infection, it is contagious. This means that coming into contact with someone currently suffering from strep throat can put you at risk of contracting the disease as well. You may get sick if the person with strep throat coughs or sneezes and you breathe in those droplets, if you drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate, or if you touch something with droplets on it (like a doorknob) and then touch your mouth or nose. 

Those at a Higher Risk

While strep throat can affect people of all ages, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of getting this infection. For example, strep throat is more common in children than adults. This is partly because children spend time at school or day-care centers where they’re in close contact with other kids, and also because they’re more likely to share items and then touch their mouths and noses. 

Furthermore, adults who are parents of school-aged children or who are often in contact with kids (like teachers) are also more likely to contract strep throat. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

Since strep throat is quite common, it’s usually easy for doctors to diagnose the disease. Different types of tests are conducted to detect strep bacteria—unfortunately, this involves the uncomfortable experience of getting your throat swabbed. This sample can then be used in a rapid antigen test, which detects strep bacteria in minutes, or a throat culture, where the sample is cultured in a laboratory for as long as two days. 

Once either of these tests detects the presence of strep bacteria, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to treat your strep throat. Because strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics need to be taken in order to improve your condition and prevent rare but serious problems from occurring. Antibiotics should reduce the duration and severity of your symptoms and minimize your risk of infecting others. 

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How To Prevent the Spread

Like with many other illnesses, strep throat can be avoided by taking the right precautions. You can protect yourself by avoiding contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with strep throat or presents symptoms of it. Even in everyday life, it’s good to practice safe hygiene by:

  • Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds
  • Using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow
  • Not sharing any food or drinks

If you are diagnosed with strep throat, you can protect others by staying home from work, school, or other public functions until you no longer have a fever and have been on antibiotics for at least 12 hours. It’s also incredibly important to take all of your antibiotics exactly as your doctor advises—don’t stop taking prescriptions early, even if you feel better. 

You can also help prevent spreading strep throat by staying home and receiving treatment from DispatchHealth. We’re specialized healthcare professionals that provide in-home treatment for strep throat and other illnesses, so we can help you limit the spread while you remain comfortable inside your house. Contact our team today to discuss your symptoms and have DispatchHealth medical specialists arrive at your home in only a few hours. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20350338
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/strep-throat.html
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350344