What are the symptoms of strep throat in adults?

What are the symptoms of strep throat in adults?

Strep throat is an infection caused by streptococcus pyogenes bacteria – also known as Group A strep. If a doctor diagnoses you with strep throat, they may prescribe antibiotics to fight the streptococcus bacteria[1]. Antibiotics are made to fight bacteria, which should help to beat the infection.

Knowing the symptoms for strep throat can help you recognise it early. This means you can get treated quicker and your symptoms may go away sooner. If you suspect you have strep throat, consult a medical professional. They should be able to tell you whether it is strep throat or one of several other throat infections, and advise treatment accordingly.

What are the first symptoms of strep throat?

Typically, the first symptom of a strep throat infection is pain and inflammation in your throat, especially when swallowing. After the sore throat develops, you may also experience other symptoms such as[1]:

  • Red or swollen tonsils
  • Tiny red spots at the back of the roof of your mouth
  • Tender, swollen glands or lymph nodes
  • Fever 

You may also experience a headache, stomach pain, vomiting or nausea, and general muscle aches. 

If you also have a cough or a runny nose, these symptoms may be a sign that your illness is caused by a virus, not streptococcus bacteria. It’s best to check with a doctor or pharmacist so you can be sure what is causing your symptoms, as this may affect which treatments are appropriate. If you have a virus, antibiotics will not treat it[2].

You may want to treat the symptoms of strep throat, as well as taking the antibiotics your doctor prescribes. Chloralieve’s Honey & Lemon throat lozenges can help to ease the pain of a sore throat until antibiotics take control of the infection. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can also help to relieve symptoms such as fever and headaches.

How long do strep throat symptoms last?

Once you’ve had a diagnosis of strep throat, your doctor will usually prescribe you with antibiotics. They’ll often recommend penicillin or amoxicillin – but if you’re allergic to penicillin there are other options available. It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice when taking antibiotics – always take the whole course of medicine or you could risk harmful complications[2].

If taken correctly, antibiotics should help relieve symptoms and make you feel better within two days. This will also make you less contagious, so your chances of passing on the infection are smaller. If your symptoms don’t get any better after 48 hours, you should consult your doctor. They may need to prescribe a different antibiotic[2].

Although antibiotics help to decrease the risk of passing on strep throat, you may still be contagious. You should stay home from work or school until you’ve been taking the antibiotics for 24 hours – but only if you feel well. Don’t mix with others if you still have fever, as you could still be infectious[1].

Can you have strep throat without symptoms?

A person who tests positive for streptococcus bacteria but has no symptoms of a strep throat is called a ‘carrier’. These people usually don’t need antibiotics, as the streptococcus bacteria isn’t attacking, which is why they have no symptoms. They’re also much less likely to pass on the infection to others, so there is no need for carriers to stay at home.

Whether you have symptoms or not, the best way to avoid passing on strep throat is to exercise caution. This means washing your hands regularly, and not sharing plates, bowls, cutlery or glasses. Any measures you can take to reduce the amount of bacteria you might transfer will help to reduce the spread of strep throat[1].


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/strep-a/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antibiotics/