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Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococci. It is most common in children and teens, but it can affect adults too. The infection is spread through droplets in the air, so if someone with the bacteria sneezes or coughs near you, you could become ill by breathing in the droplets. It can also be spread if the infected person has the bacteria on their hands, they touch something (such as a door knob), you touch the object, and then bring your hand to your nose or mouth.

Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment. Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections.

Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly), and/or amputations.

Strep throat symptoms

Strep throat is quite painful for most people. It doesn’t usually feel like a “regular” sore throat. Signs and symptoms of strep throat may include:

  • Painful swallowing
  • Tender, swollen glands (lymph nodes) on the sides of your neck
  • Red and enlarged tonsils
  • Red and white patches in the throat
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rash, may resemble sandpaper
  • Body aches

Risk factors for strep throat

Anyone can get strep throat but it is most common in teens, particularly when they are together in large groups, such as during the school year.

Complications from strep throat

Aside from the infection possibly triggering sepsis, untreated strep throat could lead to:

  • Scarlet fever
  • Poststreptococcal glomurolenephritis, which is inflammation in the kidney
  • Rheumatic fever

Diagnosis and treatment

Strep throat can often be diagnosed in the doctor’s office or clinic with a rapid antigen test, done after your doctor takes a swab from your throat. The test may also be called called a quick strep test. It’s possible the test is negative, indicating you don’t have strep throat, but your doctor may still suspect you do. If this is the case, your doctor will send another swab for a more detailed analysis in a lab.

Treatment is antibiotics. It’s important to remember that you still are contagious until about 24 hours after you started the medication. Your doctor may also recommend that you take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help reduce the swelling and pain.

If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.

Updated November 3, 2021.

Read Personal Stories of Sepsis and Strep Throat

Brooke Sheffield

Survivor

On 1/21/21, I woke up an hour before work, sweating with my heart racing. My throat was raw and it hurt to swallow. I called my job asking to let me stay home, but they guilt tripped me into coming in. So I did. After 2 hours I begged my manager to let me go and so I was sent home. I get home and my heart is still racing and I feel super lightheaded. I then develop cough along with the raw throat. I also suffer from panic disorder and assumed it was a panic attack. I told myself ... Read Full Story

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Teresa Eoff

Survivor, Survivor

On Friday July 7, 2017, I woke up with a sore throat. I gargled with salt water and went to work. I was fine working during the morning. I decided to walk to Starbucks to get a Medicine Ball tea to calm my sore throat which was burning pretty bad. I came back to my desk 10 minutes later and after a few sips of my tea began vomiting profusely for a continuous hour. I laid on the floor and told my coworkers “I felt like I was dying.” I called my husband and asked him to come to my ... Read Full Story

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Jason Milam

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

On January 27, 2019, I went into cardiac arrest due to septic shock. (Sepsis and Septic Shock) I was life flighted to a regional hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. I was on life support for three weeks. This was due to strep throat that settled in my lungs, causing streptococcal pneumonia. (Sepsis and Strep Throat, Sepsis and Pneumonia) Sepsis caused my thyroid and my gallbladder to die. I have an underlying autoimmune disease called Addison’s disease. (Sepsis and Impaired Immune System) Because of that, the medication I take suppressed the symptoms of strep throat, so I never knew I had it. ... Read Full Story

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Chris Gomez

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

On the night of February 16, 2010 I woke up vomiting and in terrible pain. I was not sure what was going on, but I knew it was something serious. I told my wife that I needed to go to the emergency room right away. I barely remember what happened that night. I remember the emergency room being cold. I remember the nurses saying that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I do not remember any more than that. Ten days later, I regained consciousness and the severity of what had happened set in. On the night I was taken to ... Read Full Story

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Inger Surowiecki

Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor, Survivor

I woke up with a sore throat February 20th 2019. Within 24 hours I knew something was terribly wrong. I was trying to sleep it off and my heart was pounding so hard and fast. I had a fever of 103. I dragged myself out of bed (good thing I did!). I have a toddler and she had to come to. At the hospital they said you have a terrible infection and we must find where it’s coming from. They were about to do a spinal tap and I suggest checking me for strep. It was positive, they started me ... Read Full Story

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Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococci. It is most common in children and teens, but it can affect adults too. The infection is spread through droplets in the air, so if someone with the bacteria sneezes or coughs near you, you could become ill by breathing in the droplets. It can also be spread if the infected person has the bacteria on their hands, they touch something (such as a door knob), you touch the object, and then bring your hand to your nose or mouth.