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What are the Dangers of Untreated Strep Throat?

By Nat Robinson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When a person has strep throat, he or she has a bacterial infection most typically generated by Group A Streptococcus. This throat infection usually causes an intense sore throat, a mild fever, throat pain and general discomfort. It is important to get timely treatment for this illness, because untreated strep throat can have dangerous repercussions. For starters, a person who fails to get treatment may have recurring strep throat, tonsillitis and rheumatic fever. Other dangers can include infections in the sinuses and ears, scarlet fever and a kidney disorder known as glomerulonephritis.

One danger of strep throat left untreated is a quick recurrence of the illness. If nothing is done to treat the bacteria, it may remain in the throat and cause it to quickly become infected all over again. Tonsillitis is another possible danger of this illness. When a person gets tonsillitis, his or her tonsils become inflamed, or severely swollen. Infections, including both viral and bacterial infections such as strep throat, are the most common causes of tonsillitis.

Rheumatic fever is one of the most severe dangers of untreated strep throat. In fact, this inflammatory disease is generally caused by strep throat that was never treated or inadequately treated. Rheumatic fever is particularly dangerous because of complications can be widespread. This disease can potentially damage the brain, muscles, and the heart and can lead to skin irritations such rashes and nodules. It can also cause joint problems.

At times, untreated strep throat can cause the infection to spread to neighboring areas and lead to other infections. Commonly, if left untreated, strep throat can lead to infection in the sinuses and ears. Infection occurring in the sinus cavities is medically classified as sinusitis. Additionally, it may also lead to otitis, which is the medical term for an ear infection. In general, the throat may be symptomatic in a person with either of these infections occurring as a secondary illness.

Scarlet fever can be another serious danger of failing to get strep throat treated properly. Like strep throat, scarlet fever is mainly caused by the same streptococcus bacteria. Individuals with scarlet fever may run a high and consistent fever and the person usually has a rash over his or her entire body. This was once a very prominent illness, however, it most commonly occurs now as a complication of another illness such as strep throat.

Another danger of untreated strep throat is glomerulonephritis. When this illness occurs as a result of strep throat, it is usually referred to as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. Generally, glomerulonephritis is a disease which distinctively affects the kidneys. In particular, post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis occurs when the bacterial infection which causes strep throat enters the glomeruli or blood vessels in the kidneys and initiates inflammation. This disorder can damage the kidneys significantly and an individual may encounter swelling, various urinary problems and even joint pain as a result of this sore throat complication.

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Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Oct 15, 2013

@fify-- Leaving strep throat untreated be deadly for children and probably for adults too. I remember reading in the news about a child who died from complications of strep throat. He didn't get treatment in time and developed kidney damage from the infection. Children are more sensitive and fragile than adults and infections are extra dangerous for them.

Also, the fever that strep throat causes can lead to brain damage in very young children. If it doesn't cause death, it can cause mental illness or retardation. Strep throat should not be taken lightly.

By fify — On Oct 15, 2013

How dangerous is untreated strep throat in children? Can it be deadly?

By fBoyle — On Oct 14, 2013

I had a strep throat infection a few months ago. I didn't go to the doctor because I thought that I would get through it without having to do anything. So I just had hot liquids, cough drops and pain relievers at home.

Instead of getting better though, the infection got worse. I could barely swallow due to the pain. My throat was red and swollen. The infection spread to my ears and sinuses so I had congestion, headaches and ear pain in addition to everything else.

My doctor was shocked when I finally went to see him. He was very angry with me for waiting so long to get treatment. I ended up taking two courses of antibiotics to get rid of all my infections and it take me very long to recover. If I had seen a doctor when I first developed symptoms, I'm sure my recovery would have been about a week.

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