Can You Get Strep Throat Without Tonsils?

If you are someone who has had your tonsils removed some time in the past, you may be wondering if you can still get strep throat. 

The answer is yes. Although one of the main symptoms of strep throat is swelling of the tonsils, you can still get it even without tonsils. Read on to understand strep throat and how it will affect you if you don’t have tonsils.

What is Strep Throat? 

Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. It is spread through saliva. Strep throat is an uncomfortable infection because it can cause swelling in your throat, tonsils, and fever, among other symptoms. 

What Causes Strep Throat? 

The Streptococcus bacteria is responsible for strep throat infections. The scientific name for the bacteria is Streptococcus pyogenes, or Group A Streptococcus. Because strep throat is spread through saliva, you can catch it by sharing drinks with an infected person and get it from simply being around someone who has it. 

Talking, coughing, and sneezing all produce respiratory droplets that may contain the bacteria. You can also get it from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your nose afterward. It’s best to avoid others who are sick with strep throat.   

Strep throat symptoms and diagnosis:

  • Throat pain
  • Fever without a cough
  • Sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Swollen and red throat with white patches 
  • Swollen lymph nodes on your neck
  • Little red spots called petechiae on the roof of your mouth
  • Headache, nausea, and vomiting (more common in children)

Because some symptoms of strep throat can be similar to other infections such as COVID-19 and influenza, doctors often test for all three. However, if you have the following symptoms, it is unlikely to be strep throat: runny nose, coughing, pink eye, or hoarseness in your voice. 

Strep throat is diagnosed by a rapid strep test. This is done by swabbing the back of the throat and tonsils to collect a sample to determine whether the strep bacteria are present. A doctor may also examine your throat and neck to check for swollen lymph nodes.

Can You Get Strep Throat Without Tonsils?

It is possible to get strep throat without tonsils; however, the good news is that it may be less severe if you do not have them. If you frequently get strep throat, a doctor may recommend having your tonsils removed in a tonsillectomy procedure.

How Are Strep Throat and Tonsils Related?

Strep throat is related to the tonsils because it can cause them to become inflamed. Your tonsils are lymph nodes located in the back of your throat. Inflammation of the tonsils is called tonsillitis. 

Most of the time, tonsillitis is caused by viruses, but 30% of cases of tonsillitis are caused by strep throat (Walijee et al., 2017). Strep throat and tonsillitis have similar symptoms, such as sore throat, fatigue, fever, and inflammation.  

How to Treat Strep Throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection; therefore, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat it if diagnosed. Penicillin and amoxicillin are the antibiotics most commonly prescribed for treating strep throat.

Antibiotics can prevent serious complications of strep throat, such as:

  • Meningitis – inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Rheumatic fever— an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the heart and joints
  • Endocarditis – an infection of the heart’s inner lining that usually involves the heart valves
  • Retropharyngeal abscess— a collection of pus in the throat’s tissues
  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis— inflammation of the kidneys
  • Infection of the blood, deep muscle and fat tissues, or lungs, caused by the Group A Streptococcus bacteria 

According to American Family Physician (2016), strep throat is most common in children ages 3-15. However, you can still get it as an adult.  

How to Prevent Strep Throat?

Regular handwashing throughout the day will help you avoid catching strep throat. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes you  to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can also be of benefit. Besides, washing your hands protects you from many germs, such as COVID-19, not just strep throat. 

You should always wash your hands, especially:

  • Before and after meal preparation
  • Before you eat
  • After you use the bathroom
  • When you arrive home after being out in public
  • Following a cough or sneeze
  • After you take out the trash or touch other unsanitary objects

Staying away from sick people will also lessen your chances of getting strep throat. If you are infected with strep throat, you should stay home from work or school until after your fever passes, or 12 hours after taking antibiotics. You can protect others in your home by not sharing personal items such as towels, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and frequently washing linens. 

When to See a Doctor?

Contact a doctor if you have symptoms of strep throat, such as a sore throat accompanied by a fever, chills, or fatigue; swollen red and white patches in your throat; or tiny red spots on 

the roof of your mouth. Other symptoms that are more common in children include headaches, nausea, and vomiting. 

A doctor can order the necessary tests to diagnose strep and rule out other illnesses, such as COVID-19 and influenza. 

If you suspect that you or your child has strep throat, it is important to seek out medical care. A doctor can provide an antibiotic to treat strep throat. 

Get help from an online doctor 

DrHouse is a telemedicine app that can assist you with your urgent medical needs, regardless of whether you are insured. If you suspect you have strep throat or have another health concern, with the DrHouse app, you can see an online doctor in 15 minutes or less. The short wait time to see a doctor is ideal for getting you on the road to a speedy recovery.

Key Takeaways

Strep throat is a highly contagious infection that affects the throat. It is caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) bacteria. Strep throat is most common in children ages 3-15, but adults can catch it too. You can catch strep throat even if you have had your tonsils removed.

To prevent strep throat, wash your hands throughout the day, stay away from others who are sick, and do not share personal items such as washcloths. 

Strep throat is treated by antibiotics, most commonly penicillin and amoxicillin. If you are sick with strep throat, getting treatment is important. If left untreated, strep throat can lead to severe complications such as meningitis, rheumatic fever, and serious infections of the blood, lungs, and deep muscle tissue. 

If you or your child have symptoms of strep throat, it is best to consult a doctor, so you can get antibiotic treatment promptly.

Sources:

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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