Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils. It is called "strep" because the bacteria that causes the infection is called streptococcus.
The symptoms of strep throat include the following:
- Sore throat
- Swollen, sore neck glands
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White patches in the throat or on the tonsils
Strep throat is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria, which helps ease the symptoms of strep throat and helps it go away faster. It can also prevent a few rare but serious conditions that people who have strep throat might develop, such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.
Not every sore throat is strep throat. Streptococcus only causes a small portion of all sore throats. The rest are caused by viruses or other problems, which antibiotics do not treat. Your doctor can do a test to check for strep throat.
If you do have strep, it can be confirmed with an in-office strep test or throat culture. Patients are contagious with strep until 24 hours after they start antibiotics. If you do pass the infection to someone else, it will probably take 2-5 days for them to show symptoms (incubation period).
It is important to take all 10 days of antibiotics your doctor prescribes. This reduces the risk that your symptoms will return and also helps prevent antibiotic resistance.