Authored by Revere Health

Complications of Strep Throat

October 11, 2017 | Family Medicine

Strep throat, an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by strep bacteria, causes a severe sore throat and may lead to fever. The standard treatment for strep throat is antibiotics.

If this treatment is not properly applied, or even in some cases where it is, strep throat complications can lead to other conditions or diseases that may require other treatments to solve.

Strep Infection Complications

It’s rare, but complications may result if the strep infection spreads to other areas of the body. Strep can spread to the sinuses (sinusitis), middle ear (otitis media) and tonsils (tonsillitis).

In other cases, complications might include:

  • Retropharyngeal abscess: An infection behind the pharynx
  • Infection of lymph nodes in the neck
  • Peritonsillar abscess
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Immune Response Complications

The body’s immune system responds to infections within the body like strep. However, sometimes the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues instead, creating complications. Some of complications in the case of a strep infection might include:

  • Rheumatic fever: Untreated strep may lead to rheumatic fever, though even beginning antibiotic treatment as late as 9 days after the beginning of a strep infection will be enough time to prevent a rheumatic fever infection.
  • Glomerulonephritis: The term for inflammation of the kidneys, glomerulonephritis can occur after certain strains of strep bacteria infection. In some cases, these infections include a strep infection of the skin (during summer months) or the throat (during winter months). This condition is rare, and usually goes away without treatment. It does have certain complications that may require treatment, however, and treating the strep infection may not prevent it.
  • PANDAS: A term for when certain disorder symptoms in children get worse following strep throat infection. These disorders include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders like Tourette’s syndrome.

Specific Examples

There are a couple specific complications of strep throat that are worth noting individually:

  • Tonsillitis: The tonsils are a big part of the body’s filtering process for bacteria and infection. When the tonsils have trouble filtering strep bacteria, they swell and become inflamed, leading to tonsillitis. Symptoms may include redness or white spots, swelling, tenderness, difficulty swallowing, fever and headache. Antibiotics are most commonly used, and symptoms usually subside in two or three days once this process begins.
  • Scarlet fever: Untreated strep infections can lead to a complication called scarlet fever, which accompanies symptoms of strep throat that were already present. Scarlet fever begins as a rash, typically on the chest and abdomen, before spreading out to the rest of the body. The rash is made up of bumps that feel like sandpaper, and skin folds become a darker red color. The tongue appears strawberry red and the face is flushed. Medical treatment is required for cases of scarlet fever.

If you or your child has strep throat, your doctor will offer the proper treatment recommendations to avoid possible complications.

Our providers take time to listen and communicate clearly with each patient, and our professional and courteous staff provides quality, personalized care for all of our patients’ general health and medical needs. We specialize in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management. We strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services and respect their right to participate in all treatment decisions.


“Strep Throat Complications – Topic Overview.” WebMD.

“Complications of Strep Throat in Adults.” LiveStrong.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.