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Your throat feels like it’s on fire, it’s difficult to swallow and your body aches. Is this just a common sore throat or could you possibly have strep throat?


Help to Soothe Your Aching Throat

The only way to know for sure is to have a medical professional test for strep. If you think you might have strep, consider visiting your local MedExpress.

With onsite strep tests, our caring, considerate medical team will help diagnose your condition and recommend treatment so you can start feeling better.

While you wait to feel better, there are measures you can take at home to help alleviate discomfort so that you or your child can start feeling more like your normal, healthy selves:

  • Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.
  • Eat soft, cold foods to soothe your throat.
  • Gargle a glass of warm salt water several times a day.
  • Use lozenges or sprays to help numb your throat.

You should consult your primary care provider before trying these remedies in small children.

What is Strep Throat?

Strep throat is caused by a highly contagious bacterial infection known as Streptococcus pyogenes – also called group A streptococcus. The infection makes your throat extremely sore with painful swallowing.

If you have strep, antibiotics are used to alleviate the infection more quickly, to prevent worsening of symptoms and to prevent complications, such as rheumatic fever.

Because it easily spreads in groups, strep throat is common in children and is more prevalent from late fall until early spring.

People who are infected can spread the bacteria by talking, coughing or sneezing, which creates small respiratory droplets that contain the bacteria. Strep can be very contagious, making it essential to practice proper hygiene habits. It is most commonly spread by breathing in droplets of bacteria exhaled by an infected person, meaning they're spreading germs when they cough or sneeze. You could also pick up strep throat by touchinig an object where those infected droplets have landed and transferring them to your mouth, nose and throat unknowingly, or by sharing items like water bottles or utensils with an infected person.

Some infected people do not have symptoms like coughs or sneezes and may not seem sick. Those with strep throat symptoms are much more contagious than those who do not have any.1

To best avoid contracting the infection, we recommend limiting contact with infected individuals. Frequent hand washing is always a good practice, especially when caring for those who are ill. When access to soap and water is an issue, hand sanitizer can be utilized for hand hygiene.

Symptoms of Strep Throat

The symptoms of strep throat can start suddenly. They include:

  • A sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
  • Red or swollen tonsils.
  • Tiny red spots at the back of your mouth.
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes in your neck.
  • Fever or headache.
  • Nausea or vomiting (often in children).
  • Body aches or chills.

nurse looking at child's throat

In more severe cases of strep throat, you may encounter a loss of appetite, a high fever, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. Emergency care should be sought in these cases.

Diagnosing Strep Throat

Many of the symptoms above can be caused by viral infections and other illnesses. Unlike coronavirus, strep is not a virus, although it does cause some of the same symptoms, such as a fever, body aches or chills. That's why it's important to seek testing and treatment from a medical professional. MedExpress centers are equipped to administer strep tests during hours that are convenient for you.

There are two tests used to diagnose strep:

1. Rapid antigen test
This is usually the first test performed because it can detect strep in minutes. Your provider will swab your throat and will test the swab to see if any antigens are present. If the rapid strep test is positive, that means that you have strep.

2. Throat culture
If the rapid antigen test came back negative and strep is still suspected, your provider may perform a throat culture.

The back of the throat and tonsils are swabbed and the sample is then sent to a lab to be cultured and tested for bacteria.

The provider will also want to know more about your symptoms and history with strep throat.

The results may take several days to receive. We will call you as soon as we receive your results.

Treating Strep Throat

If strep is confirmed, your provider will recommend treatment and prescribe medication to begin right away. Because it is a bacterial infection, you will be prescribed an antibiotic treatment such as penicillin or amoxicillin.

You should start feeling better in just a day or two after starting antibiotics. Call your provider if you or your child are not feeling better after taking antibiotics for 48 hours.1

Need Info on Another Illness?

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1 CDC: Strep Throat: All You Need to Know. Last updated January 14, 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022.

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