Signs and symptoms of strep throat in adults

Updated April 17, 2017

Strep throat is a painful and contagious condition, which can be passed from person to person through airborne germs (sneezing and coughing), or from shared eating utensils. After being exposed to strep bacteria, most people begin exhibiting symptoms within one week.

Remember that the common symptoms of strep throat--sore throat, swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes--are also common symptoms of other ailments, such as viral infections and tonsillitis. Only a physician will be able to determine whether your symptoms are indicative of strep throat, by taking a throat culture and testing specifically for the presence of strep bacteria.

Throat Pain and Difficulty Swallowing

In terms of bacterial causes of sore throat, strep is the most common cause. Typical conditions caused by strep include sudden sore throat with no other cold symptoms, such as sneezing or coughing; inflammation of throat tissue; pain and discomfort in swallowing, and a feeling of "tightness" or strain at the back of the throat; fever over 38.3 degrees Celsius. It's important to bear in mind that any throat soreness lasting longer than 48 hours warrants the attention of a physician.

Red and Swollen Tonsils, Sometimes With White Spots

A second telltale sign of strep infection is the swelling of both tonsils, as well as the immediate area around them, such as the posterior pharyngeal wall. The swollen tonsils and surrounding area also tend to turn a deep red colour, and may later exhibit white spots. These white spots are known as follicles, which is why the condition is also referred to as follicular tonsillitis.

Swollen, Tender Lymph Glands in the Neck

Lymph nodes are white blood cell-containing organs which are a part of the immune system, and which are located throughout the body. They aid the immune system in identifying and warding off infections, germs, and foreign substances.

When suffering from strep throat, the lymph nodes, which are on both sides of the front of the neck, become swollen and may feel tender and painful when touched. There are also lymph nodes located under the jaw and chin, which may also become swollen, tender, and painful to touch during strep throat.

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About the Author

Juan Ramirez has been a writer for over 14 years and worked for two years as an assistant editor with an internationally circulated journal. Ramirez holds a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from Potsdam State University and a Master of Arts in individualized study from New York University.