Health > Strep Throat Infection: Signs, Symptoms and Causes
25th Mar 2021

Strep Throat Infection: Signs, Symptoms and Causes

The weakening of the immune system as one grows older is quite common, as it is a part of the natural ageing process. Not only does this increase the chances of a senior falling sick but it also makes recovery more complicated. One of the most common illnesses that may affect seniors, strep throat is an infection which can lead to many complications unless dealt with properly.

Strep throat can affect the elderly at any time but is more common during the winter months. If diagnosed and treated on time, strep throat is not a complicated illness to treat. However, if undetected or left untreated, it can lead to much more serious complications like rheumatic fever, kidney problems, or infections in the sinus or tonsils. Strep throat cannot be diagnosed solely based on symptoms, since similar symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. However, understanding what causes strep throat and being aware of the symptoms to watch for can help ensure patients receive timely assistance.

What is Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the throat. The illness can affect anyone of any age and is highly contagious. The symptoms of a viral sore throat (sometimes accompanied by cold symptoms) are very similar to those of strep throat, so it is often quite difficult to differentiate between the two.

What Causes Strep Throat

The bacteria Streptococcus Pyogenes, also known as Group A Streptococcus, Group A Strep, or GAS, cause strep throat infection. An older adult may contract the infection if they touch their mouth, nose, or eyes after exposure to the bacteria, or if they inhale air where the bacteria are present.

How the Strep Throat Infection Spreads

Strep throat is a highly contagious illness and mostly spreads through respiratory droplets. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, or spits, droplets of their saliva enter the air, also carrying the bacteria with it. If one inhales this air or even touches a surface that is covered by these droplets and then touches their eyes, ears, or nose, they will become infected as well.

The strep throat infection can also spread through sharing personal items like utensils, cosmetics, food, drinks, etc.

Strep Throat Symptoms You Need to Look Out For

The symptoms of a viral sore throat and strep throat are quite similar, so one needs to be extra vigilant regarding the same. The intensity of strep throat symptoms may vary from person to person, but they usually appear within 2-5 days after being exposed to the bacteria. Severe throat pain is one of the most common early-stage strep throat symptoms in the elderly. Apart from the pain and swollen tonsils, strep throat causes the following symptoms:

•    Sudden fever
•    Pain in swallowing
•    Red spots on the roof of the mouth
•    Body aches
•    Headaches
•    Rash
•    Red tonsils with white patches or pus
•    Swollen and tender lymph nodes at the front of the neck
•    Nausea
•    Vomiting

As mentioned, many of these are also symptoms of a viral sore throat. However, early detection is key to effectively treating strep throat in elderly patients and one should not take these symptoms lightly.

If the symptoms of a viral sore throat persist for more than two days, or if other symptoms appear, take the patient to the doctor. The doctor can then identify the root cause, which may be something other than strep throat.


It is not possible to diagnose strep throat on symptoms alone. The doctor will begin looking for signs of strep throat through a physical examination, but the only way to confirm strep throat in the elderly is to perform diagnostic tests.

The Rapid Test

This test, as the name suggests, gives results in almost no time. If the doctor notices signs of strep throat, they collect a sample of secretion from the painful area in the throat. A cotton swab is gently rubbed across the tonsils, back of the throat, and any other sore areas. The analysis of the sample for the presence of strep bacteria takes about 10-15 minutes. In the case of a positive result, treatment can be started. However, if the result comes back negative but the doctor still suspects that the patient is suffering from strep, they may suggest a throat culture swab.

Throat Culture Swab

This test involves collecting secretions from the back of the throat and placing the sample on a special plate, allowing sufficient time for the bacteria to grow. This part of the test may take a few days. To determine the presence and type of bacteria, if any, technicians perform several chemical tests on the sample.

The throat culture swab test is much more reliable and can help a doctor identify an infection that the rapid test may have missed.


Antibiotics, a strong medication, effectively treat strep throat in the elderly by destroying the infection-causing bacteria, relieving symptoms, preventing spread, and avoiding complications.

It’s crucial to complete the antibiotic course, even if symptoms improve. Stopping early can leave some bacteria behind, risking complications and potential antibiotic resistance, making future infections harder to treat.

Antibiotics tend to work very quickly, and most patients feel better within a couple of days. However, to ensure the elderly patient’s comfort, the following steps may be taken:

•    Drinking warm liquids like lemon water or tea can help with the soreness of the throat.
•    Using a cool mist humidifier helps make sure dry air does not irritate the patient’s throat.
•    Gargling 1-2 times a day can be very helpful in soothing pain in the throat. For gargling, one can use a saline solution (1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water).
•    The patient should get plenty of rest to help boost their immune system.
•    The patient’s diet should comprise of soothing and easy to swallow food.
•    Keeping the mucus membranes moist with a saline nasal spray can also help.
•    It is important to drink plenty of water to keep the throat lubricated, prevent dehydration, and ease swallowing.
•    Avoid spicy food and acidic beverages like orange juice.
•    Avoid contact with throat irritants like smoke or the fumes of cleaning products.


When an elderly loved one shows symptoms of strep throat, take them to a doctor for a proper diagnosis immediately. Ensure the treatment proceeds without any hiccups. While strep throat is easily treatable if detected early, it can cause severe complications if left untreated or improperly treated.

Emoha Elder Care, offering home health care for senior citizens, operates with a team of clinical experts. Industry leaders, with their deep domain expertise, guide Emoha Elder Care. The organization dedicates itself to ensuring a healthy lifestyle and delivering specialized care to senior citizens in the comfort of their own homes. Emoha Elder Care provides a range of services, including access to verified nurses and emergency support, always putting #EldersFirst.

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