What is strep throat? Everything you need to know about strep throat, its symptoms, and how it differs to Covid

As the arrival of autumn in the UK marks the onset of the flu season, lots of people are reporting cases of a rough, sore throat and flu-like symptoms.

By Liv McMahon
Monday, 27th September 2021, 3:18 pm
What is strep throat? Everything you need to know about strep throat, its symptoms and how it differs to coronavirus (Image credit: Getty Images/Canva Pro)
What is strep throat? Everything you need to know about strep throat, its symptoms and how it differs to coronavirus (Image credit: Getty Images/Canva Pro)

While the continuing coronavirus pandemic has made us highly aware of symptoms such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a change in taste or smell, there are plenty of common colds and flus circulating in the UK right now.

But among the more severe symptoms being reported are several which can be easily confused with Covid-19 – especially of the dominant Delta variant.

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Though less common in the UK than in the US, strep throat is one such illness that appears to be on the rise in the UK.

Here’s what strep throat is, what sort of symptoms it presents and how it differs to Covid-19.

What is strep throat?

Sometimes identified as a particularly severe case of a sore throat or flu, strep throat is a bacterial throat infection caused by streptococcus bacteria known as Group A streptococcus.

These contagious bacteria can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or sharing food and drink products – with the result causing pain and inflammation of the throat and tonsils.

If strep throat worsens it has the potential to cause tonsilitis.

What are the symptoms of strep throat?

Besides a painful sore throat which causes neck glands and lymph nodes in the neck to swell, strep throat can also see sufferers become feverish or have chills, as well as a loss of appetite and difficulty or pain when swallowing.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of strep throat are:

- a sore throat that can comes on very quickly.

- pain when swallowing.

- fever.

- red and swollen tonsils with white patches or streaks of pus.

Less common symptoms are headaches, nausea and vomiting – with these occurring more commonly in younger children.

How is strep throat different to Covid?

While symptoms of coronavirus and strep throat can bear some similarity and take a similar duration of up to five days to fully appear, there are several key differences between the two illnesses.

Namely, strep throat is caused by active bacteria infecting the throat rather than a virus such as coronavirus which must inhabit a host organism in order to survive.

The symptoms of the two illnesses also differ, with strep throat not commonly causing continuous bouts of coughing in the same way Covid does.

It also is not known to trigger a loss or change in taste or smell.

But if you are experiencing any of the three main coronavirus symptoms alongside strep throat symptoms, you can book a PCR test or order one online to make sure that you haven’t caught Covid-19.

How is strep throat treated?

Strep throat typically passes in around a week or so, with sufferers advised to rest and ensure they get enough sleep to help their body fight the infection.

Throat lozenges, cold and flu remedies and pain relieving medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to ease strep throat pain.

But if you have a fever and throat pain which lasts for more than 48 hours, or presents a rash, you should get in touch with your GP or seek urgent medical advice, particularly if this occurs in children or teenagers.

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