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5 Serious Complications of Untreated Strep Throat

5 Serious Complications of Untreated Strep Throat

Anybody can get strep throat, but it’s most common in children 5 to 15 years old. The bacterial infection usually comes on suddenly with a sharp, painful sore throat, fever and chills, red and swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes. Children are susceptible because they are usually in public settings where the condition spreads quickly. 

If your child has a sore throat that causes pain while swallowing, you should suspect strep throat. This is especially true if you know of other kids in their class or daycare who have recently had an infection.

Our team at Penguin Pediatrics, consisting of Dr. Umesh Kodu and Dr. Mitali Saha, can easily diagnose strep throat with a rapid test done in our office. We just need to swab your child’s throat. When the test is positive for strep, we prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection quickly and effectively.

We don’t recommend letting strep throat run its course. Not only will your child be incredibly uncomfortable, they’ll be at risk for serious complications. Here are five to worry about.

1. Abscess 

A possible complication of strep throat is the development of a peritonsillar abscess.This pus-filled tissue forms at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. It can make it hard for your child to open their mouth. The abscess can also push the tonsil to block the throat, causing difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing. 

2. Sinus and/or ear infection

The group A streptococcal bacteria can spread to the sinuses, causing a sinus infection. Some children also develop ear infections if the bacteria travels. Prompt treatment of strep throat with antibiotics prevents these complications.

3. Lymph node infection

Your lymphatic system is made up of about 600 lymph nodes. These nodes are full of white blood cells that are ready to fight infection. Some of these lymph nodes are located below your jaw.


These nodes may become infected and change from a small, firm nodule into a tender, palpable lump. When strep bacteria spreads, your child’s lymph nodes may be tender and enlarged. 

Your child may struggle with fever, chills, and pain. Antibiotics can usually cure the bacterial infection. 

4. Rheumatic fever

If strep throat goes untreated, your child is at risk of developing rheumatic fever. This inflammatory condition affects the heart, brain, joints, and skin. 

When rheumatic fever doesn’t get proper treatment, long-term heart disease can result. Seeking immediate treatment for your child’s strep throat prevents this concerning complication. 

5. Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease. This inflammatory condition happens when your immune system overreacts to the strep bacteria. Symptoms include dark urine, swelling in the face, hands, and feet, reduced urination, and fatigue. 

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis usually resolves within a few weeks with treatment. In rare cases, the condition can lead to long-term kidney damage. 

Treatment of strep throat

Antibiotics are a simple and effective treatment for strep throat. Once they’re administered, your child will begin to feel better within a day or two. It’s important for them to take the entire prescription to ensure the bacteria is completely cleared from their system.

Taking antibiotics decreases the length of illness, alleviates symptoms, prevents spread, and helps your child avoid serious complications.

Call us at Penguin Pediatrics in Ashburn or Stone Ridge, Virginia, to schedule an immediate appointment if your child is showing signs of strep throat. 

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