Strep Throat in Adults

Strep Symptoms in Adults

There is no single, particular sign or symptom that specifically points to strep throat in adults or children. So, to help narrow down whether a throat infection is the result of strep, healthcare providers ask about specific symptoms.
An adult with strep throat usually has at least two out of four of these signs or symptoms:
  • A red and painful throat that begins suddenly
  • A fever above 101ºF (38.3ºC)
  • Red and enlarged tonsils -- there may also be white patches of pus on the tonsils or in the throat
  • Tender or swollen lymph glands in the neck.
A cough and/or runny nose do not usually occur in someone with strep throat. These symptoms are more common with a sore throat caused by a virus. It is also uncommon for someone with strep throat to have a sore throat for more than one week.
(Click Strep Throat Symptoms for more information, including a list of symptoms that are typical in infants and children.)

Diagnosing Strep Throat

If you think you might have strep throat, you should visit your healthcare provider to find out for sure. To diagnose strep throat, your healthcare provider will do a throat swab, which takes a sample of fluids from the back of the throat. This sample will be used for a throat culture, or a rapid strep test. These tests look for signs of the bacteria that cause strep throat.

How Is Strep Throat in Adults Treated?

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics. Not only do they decrease the chances for complications (see Strep Throat Complications), but they also help decrease the severity and length of symptoms.
In most cases, penicillin is the typical antibiotic of choice for treating strep throat in adults. It is effective, safe, and inexpensive. Penicillin may be given as pills that are taken for 10 days, or in the form of a shot.
Penicillin V is the treatment of choice for strep throat. It is taken by mouth, either two or three times a day for 10 days. For adults, the standard dosage is 500 mg.
There are other antibiotic choices for people who are allergic to penicillin (see Strep Throat Antibiotics).
Within 24 hours of starting antibiotics, a person's temperature should drop. After two or three days, other symptoms of strep throat should start to improve.
As with all antibiotics, it is important to finish the prescription, even when you start to feel better. Stopping the treatment too early or skipping a dose could allow the bacteria to become resistant to the medication, which could allow the infection to spread. This may require longer treatment.
A person is no longer contagious after they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours.
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Strep Throat Information

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