November 29th, 2010
08:43 AM ET

What are the chances my family will get my strep throat?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Yvonne, Stone Mountain, Georgia

I recently got diagnosed with strep throat and am taking antibiotics. Will the rest of the family get it also? I had a sore throat but no fever. My husband and kids aren't complaining of any problems.

Thanks for your question. Strep throat (an infection of the throat caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, also called Streptococcus pyogenes) is most contagious starting a few days before symptoms show up and decreases after a person has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours. The germs are transferred through close contact with the sick person's mouth or droplets from a cough or a sneeze.

There is about a 25 percent chance of spreading strep to household contacts. Your family members can try to avoid getting your infection by cleaning their hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as well as keeping their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.

Strep bacteria cause about 10 percent of sore throat infections, with the remainder being caused mostly by viruses. There are more than 100 types of strep, although they don't all cause throat infections. The illness usually begins within two to five days after exposure to the bacteria, so if yours was diagnosed more than about five days ago and no one else in your family is sick, they are unlikely to catch it from you now.

If it has been fewer than five days, people in your home should be on the lookout for fever, sore throat, redness or pus in the back of the mouth, swollen glands in the neck and possibly headaches, stomach aches or a rough rash. Cold symptoms such as a runny nose or cough don't usually accompany strep throat unless it's in a young child or the person also has a cold virus. Your doctor will probably advise that any family members with symptoms also get tested so that they can get antibiotic treatment if needed but avoid it if not.

Good luck, and I hope you feel better soon!

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soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Yes1Fan

    Gargling with 3% Peroxide / Water solution kills strep on contact. It is important to move your head from side to side while gargling, and try to gargle as deeply as possible over a sink, but this works. Strep is anaerobic – H2O2 is "extra oxygen" that kills them. Strep is far deadlier than given credit. Aside from heart trouble, It get into the brain where the autoimmune system can create permanent movement disorders such as Panda's and Essential Tremor (far more common than Parkinson's).

    November 29, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • adoctor

      Group A strep (S. pyogenes) is aerobic, not anaerobic. Don't play around with home remedies. If you think you have it, get tested, and if you are positive, get the appropriate antibiotic therapy.

      November 29, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
  2. Eliza

    Also important to change your toothbrush after 24 hr on antibiotic otherwise you will reinfect yourself after your antibiotic is finished. If you keep your toothbrush in a cup or holder with other people's toothbrushes, they should be thrown out and changed as well.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. jeff

    Strep throat is one of the most contageous illness around. If you have it, you family has it, and your coworkers have it. Its amusing that people think they can kill it by gargling.

    November 29, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shawn

      then why did my strep go away after three days of gargling apple cider vinegar?

      December 24, 2015 at 19:29 | Report abuse |
    • doctor

      because you didnt have strep

      September 30, 2016 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  4. Fuyuko

    Strep is really bad. I came down with strep and the doctor wouldn't give me antibiotics. He gave me cough syrup with codeine That night I was hospitalized, I was having trouble swallowing and my family was very worried. They gave me antibiotics and it really helped. I wish he'd given me the drugs I needed and saved me the trip to the hospital. Strep is serious.

    November 29, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shana cooper

      I can't believe they didn't give you antibiotics! I hope you never went back to that doctor again. My daughter has had it twice, now my son has it. Each them they are incredibly sick then after the first dose of antibiotics they perk up and it get better from there.

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      August 2, 2016 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  5. sunny

    strep can be potentially fatal if untreated. It can damage your kidneys. It should always be treated with an antibiotic and change out all the toothbrushes in your family household.
    In addition if you would like to see what happens to a person who has strep and also has psoriasis – google "guttate psoriasis" and look at the pictures of people who suffer from this. Strep is highly contagious and I think the % rate is higher than 25% for household contact. The symptoms can vary from person to person and may include pale skin, with "strawberry" colored lips, fever sometimes, swollen glands, white patches of pus on tonsils etc...

    November 29, 2010 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. X

    Strep throat is usually self-limiting and complications like Scarlet Fever are rare. The normal, healthy adult or child does NOT need to use antibiotics to rid themselves of an infection. It will clear on its own. However, rare complications can and do occur occasionally. If antibiotics are obtained, make sure you take them exactly as prescribed because the only thing worse than Scarlet Fever is a case of antibiotic-resistent Strep that you kindly spread to your family, co-workers and community. Either take no antibiotics or take them correctly.

    November 29, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Operation Plumbbob

      I've had strep several times over my lifetime and it has never gone away on its own, no matter how long I've waited. Each person's immune system is different. What works for someone who has a great immune system doesn't necessarily work for someone who's got a low-end-of-average one.

      May 9, 2013 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
  7. Dr Kadiyali M Srivatsa

    I have been writing about antibiotics and MRSA for more than thirty years, and am still finding it hard to answer some questions but you seem to be very confidently publishing information that are not correct. It looks as if you have access and quote figures and percentages that most of us are not aware. We know some infections rarely and others rapidly spread in the community. So we must not predict the percentage of spreading of these bacterial infections..

    November 30, 2010 at 04:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dewayne Kasun

    Scarlet fever is an age-old childhood scourge that has been rare in the United States since 1970. Caused by group A strep infection, the illness causes fever, sore throat, white spots on the tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, a bright-red "strawberry" tongue, and a tell-tale red rash that starts on the abdomen and spreads throughout the body within two days. Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics, but the new Hong Kong strain appears to be resistant to at least two commonly used drugs.:

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    March 31, 2013 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LK

      Rare but not gone. My kid just went to a Chuck E. Cheese in April in IL and wound up with scarlet fever. He's only 4.

      April 23, 2013 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • Rob DeKorne

      Hi Dewayne, I know this is an old post, but I just had to comment. I have 3 children that do not test positive for strep, which has caused them all to have scarlet fever, (caused by untreated strep) and two of them have had scarlet fever twice. I have also seen this rash on multiple children. So no, scarlet fever is not that rare as you have stated.

      August 12, 2014 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  9. Bernard Sundin

    Doctors treat strep throat with antibiotics. Antibiotics shorten the time you are able to spread the disease to others (are contagious) and lower the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your body. Antibiotics also may help you feel better faster.-;"

    Most up-to-date write-up on our own blog <http://www.wellnessdigest.co

    July 5, 2013 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. sara

    Scarlet fever not gone. My son got it as a complication from strep

    June 14, 2014 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lilly

    My neighbors recently had strep throat my mom was talking to the neighbor when she started coughing they were outside I'm scared she's going to get sick.

    February 21, 2015 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lynn

    My granddaughter has scarlet fever her doctor told her mum she can't go near my husband cause he is getting over 2 heart attacks why?

    June 10, 2015 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DRQ

    There are hundreds of "roots" (strains) of strep. An antibiotic confers immunity to the specific "root" that caused the illness calling for treatment – BUT not to all strep strains. Shawn: your strep may not have been cured. Strep is known to "hide" inside the body after an acute episode, and cause severe illnesses later in life. Typical examples are: kidney disease, heart disease, and rheumatism – that is: illness of the kidneys, heart, or bones and joints. I understand the risks and cost-benefit assessments of giving antibiotics, but so many people on the list of kidney transplant and so many deformed beautiful hands are due to untreated strep infections. I miss my motor: she had a bad strep before the discovery of antibiotics, and later developed a heart disease that killed her at 55, following several heart attacks since she was 30yo. True, in adults the risks of chronic disease after step infections are minimal, but they are very high in children. It saddens me to see doctors sending kids home w/o antibiotics, despite a fever and the typical signs of strep infections.

    September 13, 2016 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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  15. John Kerry

    Most of the time, however, our immune system is able to fight off the strep throat infection, but the immune system in children is often weaker, which is why strep throat is most common among children between 5-years-old and 15-years-old. However, even an adult’s immune system may be weakened due to another infection or stress, and this can lead to their contracting strep throat.
    Reference : https://www.findatopdoc.com/Healthy-Living/Is-Strep-Throat-Contagious

    December 19, 2016 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. L.M

    I just had strep throat and went to the doctor after the third day. I took the strip test, which was positive, so the dr prescribed antibiotics. I didn't take them and was feeling better that afternoon. By the next day, I was fine. If I would have taken the antibiotics, I would have credited them for my feeling better. You body needs to heal itself or it will always rely on a crutch (antibiotics). Tip: Apple cider vinegar!!

    May 25, 2017 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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  18. Actually Has Common Sense

    Please do not listen to these fake internet doctors with only a G.E.D as their credentials. There is a reason we have doctors and specialist...because we are not them ourselves. Antibiotics cost me $12.17 today so its not a pharma scam to push them on you. Stop trying prohibition era methods your grandmothers used, and listen to your doctor. If you didn't care, then why even come here just to misinform people. Give a fool a smart phone and he thins he is Bill Gates..... Sad to see the I.Q spectrum on these forums.

    August 5, 2018 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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