Strep is a common bacterial infection that usually causes a mild illness known as strep throat. The illness typically includes a sore throat, can be easily treated with antibiotics and is rarely serious . It is also possible to carry streptococcal bacteria and show no symptoms.
But sometimes, strep bacteria can lead to much more serious problems. In some cases, it can affect the skin and causes illnesses like impetigo or cellulitis. Other times, the blood and internal organs can get infected with strep, causing a life-threatening illness known as invasive group A streptococcal (GAS) disease.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
The majority of strep infections are minor. The symptoms include a low fever, swollen neck glands, a sore throat, irritability and a reduced appetite. Sometimes, the infection can cause worse symptoms like a more painful sore throat, a higher fever or patches of pus on the tonsils.
In rare cases, the strep infection can affect the blood and other internal organs in the form of the invasive GAS disease. Warning signs to look for include severe pain and swelling, fever, confusion, dizziness and a red rash all over the body.
If you suspect you have strep throat, it's best to see a doctor. Strep usually can be eliminated quickly with antibiotics. But if the strep infection is left untreated, it can spread from the mouth or throat to other parts of the body and cause more serious infections. Invasive GAS disease, though rare, can be more likely to occur in people with open sores or compromised immunity. These infections are much more difficult to treat and sometimes end in death.
SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention