Strep Throat (cont.)

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When should the tonsils be removed?

Surgical removal of the tonsils is much less common today thanks to the ability to rapidly and accurately diagnose strep infection, and to the excellent antibiotic coverage currently available. But occasionally, your doctor might suggest the need for surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) if an individual:

  1. is experiencing more than five documented strep throat infections in a 12 month period;
  2. has tonsils that are so large, even when the individual is well, that they cause not just "snoring" but significant obstruction or blockage of the airway during sleep (sleep apnea); or
  3. develops an uncommon but serious deep-seated infection within and surrounding one or both of the tonsils, called a "peri-tonsillar abscess."

Why is it very important to detect and treat a strep throat?

Studies have shown that if antibiotic treatment is started within the first 48 hours of symptoms, the duration of the symptoms is reduced by one to two days. If untreated, the body's immune system  will generally clear the infection within 5 to 7 days.

Another reason to treat strep infection early is that there is a significant reduction in transmitting the disease to another. Reports indicate that after 24 hours of antibiotics individuals become minimally contagious.

There are many potential sequelae (complications) of untreated strep infection described in the complications section.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/16/2014

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