Is Strep Throat Contagious? Incubation Period and Diagnosis

Is strep throat contagious?

The answer is yes. It is contagious.

Strep throat is among the most common diseases/conditions of the throat globally. Although it is more common among children and infants, strep throat can affect people of all ages. Usually, milder symptoms are observed in adults than in children, but if the condition progresses, the symptoms can go from bad to worse. It is essential to consult a physician when a sore throat, which is one of the most prominent signs of strep throat, keeps getting worse. It is a highly contagious disease and can affect some people at once. Why and how is it contagious though? Let’s have a look.

The incubation period for strep throat

The incubation period for strep throat is generally 2 to 5 days. What starts as a normal sore throat, then goes on to form an infection in the tonsils.

Just like any other disease, strep throat too can refrain from showing symptoms for a while. This is what is called as an incubation period. The time in which a disease is asymptomatic, i.e. showing no symptoms is the time when the bacteria start breeding in the body. If the fight or flight in a person’s body is weak, the condition progresses. The time that a person is infected is different from the time when he/she starts showing symptoms. Unless we see something out of place with our body, meaning unless we feel sick, the treatment or diagnosis for any disease cannot start.

Who is the most susceptible to a sore throat?

People in closer proximities for more extended periods are more prone to strep throat than others. Places like schools, offices, colleges, public gatherings, etc. can prove to be a breeding place for all kinds of harmful bacteria. Therefore, maintaining personal hygiene is of utmost importance if you are suffering from strep throat. Avoid sharing things with infected people to prevent it from reaching you.

How can one get strep throat?

  • Standing too close to a person with strep throat.
  • Physical contact with a person who has strep throat.
  • Being in close vicinity to a person with the disease while he/she is sneezing or coughing.
  • Direct contact with the saliva of a patient.
  • Direct contact with faucets, doorknobs or other objects touched by a patient.

It is essential for a person to ensure immediate treatment in order not to pose a risk to others around him or her. If a person has been diagnosed with strep throat, the medication must start within 24 hours after which the condition stops being as contagious. If antibiotics are not started between a certain period, the disease can openly spread for 2 to 3 weeks.

How to know you have strep throat?

Strep throat can be confused for the regular flu, which isn’t unheard of. But there are a few things that a strep throat does differently than the regular flu.

  • Strep throat feels like a dry itch at the back of your throat which can be annoying and irritating if one doesn’t know what it is.
  • Strep throat is caused by a bacterium, and one will only get it if he/she comes in direct contact with it.
  • One can run a high temperature during this disease, or even before it has progressed into a full-fledged infection.
  • On close observation, white patches can be seen on the tonsils and back of the throat.
  • Stomach ache and headache that can range from mild to severe.
  • Redness and swelling on tonsils which makes it painful or difficult to swallow anything.
  • A sore throat is the main sign of strep throat, although it is common to have a sore throat even without strep throat.

Antibiotics for strep throat are usually high power depending on the severity of the condition. These antibiotics can cause a set of side effects or symptoms of their own which can last for a while.

  • Nausea or vomiting is a common side effect. They can also be caused because of the difficulty to swallow in this condition, thus barring you from ingesting any food or drink.
  • Loss of appetite which could result in diarrhoea and weakness in muscles.
  • Drowsiness due to the antibiotics which can hinder one’s daily chores.

A person suffering from strep throat should keep themselves hydrated at all costs. This helps with a speedy recovery and relieves the soreness in one’s throat. It also minimises the side effects of the antibiotics, thus promoting a healthier outcome.

How is strep throat diagnosed?

Strep throat can be self-diagnosed, but if one doesn’t know what exactly it is, or if the condition persists, physicians use the following techniques to determine the problem.

Rapid antigen test

A rapid antigen test is performed by taking a swab sample from the patient’s throat.

  • Quick results, usually reliable.
  • Might be uncomfortable/painful.
  • Detects strep bacteria within a few minutes.

If the test is positive, the antigens will be present on the swab. If it is harmful and symptoms persist, the physician may ask the patient to perform throat culture immediately.

Throat culture

A throat culture test is performed when standard or satisfactory results are not obtained from a rapid antigen test. The characteristics of a throat culture test are as follows:

  • Just like a rapid antigen test, a swab which is sterile is rubbed on the back of the throat or the tonsils.
  • It isn’t painful but may prove uncomfortable or cause gagging in patients who don’t have a good gag reflex.
  • It is then sent for testing in a laboratory, or the physician may keep it under observation.
  • In case of strep throat, the bacteria streptococcus will grow on the swab, thus confirming results within 2 to 3 days.


As contagious as strep throat is, it isn’t fatal and goes away in a week or sometimes, takes slightly longer. Ensuring proper rest and continuing the course of treatment for as long as the doctor has prescribed, one can be assured that it will not make a reappearance very soon. With our environment growing populated and polluted with each passing day, let us all give ourselves and others the gift of a healthy life by taking all necessary measures to prevent and treat whatever comes our way.

Also Recommended-

Strep Throat 101- Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment, and More

Effective Home Remedies for Strep Throat

How to Prevent Strep Throat? Here Is How to Protect Yourself and Loved Ones

Strep Throat in Babies- Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Home Remedies

Decoding the difference: Strep Throat vs Sore Throat

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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