“How long is strep throat contagious?” is just as important of a thought as “How long am I going to have this crap?” if you’ve has the misfortune of contracting strep throat. There are various bits and pieces that comprise the infectious puzzle called streptococcus that should be detailed before finding out how long you’re able to spread the infection to others. Strep throat most often infects school-aged children – when you stick a bunch of kids in the same room who might be sneezing, coughing or vomiting, somebody else is going to get sick eventually. But the sickness can just as easily infect adults, so don’t think age exempts you from getting infected.
Strep throat feels kind of like the flu…chills, fever, swelling of random things, headache, and fatigue are among the symptoms. Oh, but let us not forget the symptom that gives the bug its name: a sore throat that feels like you swallowed a porcupine holding a cheese grater. The severity of the symptoms vary with the severity of the infection itself, but expect anything involving even minor movement of the mouth to hurt. Swallowing, laughing, or even talking is torture, and your tonsils will swell up and grow a nice coating of mucous and pus. You can drink chloraseptic until your organs are pickled in it, but it won’t even take the edge off strep throat. The fun thing is though, that some people won’t even exhibit any perceptible warning signs, so you might be wondering, “Hmm, is strep throat contagious if no symptoms are visible?” And the answer is ‘most definitely’. Symptoms can be a little dormant and might not show up for days after the person is contaminated, and even though they present no outward indications, they can still infect others.
Waiting for a case of strep throat to just go away is something you shouldn’t and likely won’t want to do, it’s a bacterial infection, which means you’re going to need antibiotics to knock it out (usually something common like penicillin or amoxicillin). And while you can usually identify strep throat by how appallingly agonizing it is, you’ll still need a rapid strep test or a throat culture to determine if you actually do have strep, or if it’s a viral infection. If your case of strep throat is too severe or advanced, however, you do just have to wait it out. This illness is highly contagious too; it can be spread via contact with infected surfaces, foods and drinks, clothes, and just about anything germs can survive in or on. So, to answer the initially proposed question of, “Is strep throat contagious?” you’re a walking germ vector for several weeks…if you’re not being treated. Conversely, if you’re on antibiotics, you stop being infectious after 24 to 48 hours of being on medication. So…is strep throat contagious? Short answer: Yes.
It’s exceedingly important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you have strep throat. Bacterial infections might seem like trivial matters, but left untreated, they can turn into very severe and sometimes life-threatening problems. Rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, meningitis, and pneumonia are all rare, but still possible complications of untreated strep throat. If you want to avoid getting sick, be sure to wash your hands, don’t touch ‘communal’ surfaces (like hand railings and public phones), and don’t get too close to people who are sneezing, coughing, have fevers, or who tell you they’re sick with strep. This isn’t a guarantee for immunity, but doing these things will diminish your chances of contracting infections of all sorts, not just strep.