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Recurrent or Chronic Strep Throat

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/7/2010

If strep throat is left untreated it can come back resulting in a chronic condition. Patients afflicted with recurrent strep throat could experience seven episodes in just one year.

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    What is Chronic or Recurrent Strep Throat?

    Strep Throat 

    Typically a mild illness caused by the group A streptococcus bacterium, strep throat can escalate if untreated or if it becomes recurrent, or otherwise known as chronic. Some of the complications of not treating strep throat include tonsillitis, ear and sinus infections, kidney inflammation, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. (MayoClinic).

    According to Susan Garetz, M.D., Chronic strep throat, also known as recurrent strep throat, is defined as bouts with strep throat that number “ . . .more than seven episodes in one year, or more than five episodes per year in during two consecutive years." (UMHS)

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    The best treatment is prevention. Because strep throat is highly contagious, the basics of disease prevention such as washing your hands, not sharing drinking and eating utensils, and covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing will go a long way in preventing the spread of the bacteria that causes the initial bout of strep throat (Mayoclinic). By lowering the risk of getting strep throat, the risk is of recurrent strep throat is automatically lowered.

    Additionally, by diagnosing and treating strep throat early, the risk for escalation is decreased. Most often the antibiotics given to treat a case of strep throat will kill the bacteria that cause it. Penicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic for treatment.

    However, if chronic strep throat develops and antibiotics have been ineffective, another option used to curtail it is a tonsillectomy. In a 2007 UMHS article, Dr. Susan Garetz stated that research indicated tonsillectomies resulted in patients being three times less likely to experience another bout of strep throat than those who did not undergo one.

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    Other Resources

    A helpful slide show regarding how to distinguish the common sore throat from strep throat is available on

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    A parent’s guide to understanding tonsils and strep. Krista Hopson. August 6, 2007. University of Michagan Health System (UMHS) – UMHS Newsroom.

    Infectious Disease – Strep Throat.

    Group A Streptococcal (GAS) Disease. Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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    Image Credit

    Throat with Strep. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.