Though rare, untreated cases of strep throat can cause serious complications, including sepsis. Sepsis can cause long-term tissue damage and organ failure if left unmanaged.
Strep throat is a relatively common condition, but it can have serious health effects if left untreated.
It affects your throat and tonsils and is caused by group A Streptococcus (group A strep). Strep is highly contagious and is usually spread through either direct contact with someone who has strep or inhaling respiratory droplets carrying the bacteria.
For most people, symptoms begin to appear within 2 to 5 days of exposure. For some, the condition resolves on its own. In other cases, a healthcare professional will prescribe a course of antibiotics to control the infection and prevent potentially serious complications, including sepsis.
Sepsis occurs when your body’s immune system goes into overdrive to control an infection. This excessive immune response can cause inflammation and damage to healthy tissues and organs.
Group A strep bacteria that cause strep throat usually result in only mild infections. But left untreated, the infection can become more severe and potentially trigger sepsis.
If you have strep-related sepsis, you’ll likely experience symptoms of both strep throat and sepsis at the same time.
Strep throat symptoms include:
- white patches on the throat or tonsils
- swollen or sore neck glands
- sore throat
- red and swollen tonsils
Children may also experience abdominal pain, vomiting, or a red rash with spots that are more severe under the arms or in skin creases.
Sepsis symptoms will usually include:
More severe forms of sepsis may also cause:
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Sepsis is a serious complication that requires immediate medical attention. This will usually involve a prescription for either penicillin or clindamycin to treat the underlying infection. You may also be given intravenous fluids to stay hydrated.
Can you die from strep throat if not treated?
Left untreated, strep throat can be life threatening in some cases, though this is rare. Antibiotics can effectively treat strep throat and minimize your risk of complications, including sepsis.
If you have symptoms of strep throat but haven’t seen a healthcare professional, consider talking with one as soon as possible. They can perform a strep test to confirm a diagnosis and prescribe a course of antibiotics.
If you’re already taking antibiotics for strep throat, be sure to take the entire course as directed.
In rare cases, strep throat can lead to serious complications, including sepsis. Sepsis is a serious condition that can cause damage to tissue and organs throughout your body.
If you have symptoms of either strep throat or sepsis, talk with a healthcare professional as soon as possible to begin antibiotic treatment.