White spots on the back of the throat are always an unsettling discovery. Especially in the winter and early spring, your mind might wander straight to the inevitable question — is it strep? Strep throat is a highly contagious infection that impacts virtually every household at some point, and is especially common among children. As the mother of three, I’m constantly on the lookout for any evidence of disease in my kids, and identifying these white spots in the throat is always a top priority.
Common symptoms of strep throat
There’s a lot more to strep throat criteria than just white spots on the back of the throat. In fact, it’s not unusual to have strep throat without white spots, especially early in the infection. You may experience a fever and sore throat, and have difficulty swallowing. The lymph glands near your throat may be swollen, causing the area just below your jaw to be tender or painful to the touch.Fatigue, rashes, headache, and nausea or vomiting may also be present. Note that having all of these symptoms does not mean you have strep throat, but it does mean you need to get to a doctor to find out for sure.
Appearance of strep throat white spots
White spots in the throat associated with strep throat are usually readily visible when they’re present. The spots may be small, or may be so prevalent as to look almost like stripes on the back of your throat, or even a solid mass where pus and dead cells catch in your throat’s natural contours. Likely, your throat will also be noticeably swollen and red by this point. Do those white spots on the back of your throat mean that you have strep? Not necessarily, as strep throat isn’t the only condition linked to throat spots.
Other common conditions that cause white spots on the back of the throat
Strep throat is potentially the most serious or contagious cause of white spots in the back of the throat, but it’s not the only one. Other common causes of white spots include tonsilloliths, thrush, or a variety of other conditions. It is often an infection, but can be a bacterial or fungal infection that’s completely unrelated to strep throat.
Confirming a strep throat diagnosis
If you even suspect you might have strep throat, contact your doctor or family clinic as soon as possible. Practice good hygiene, washing hands often and trying not to touch your face, to limit the potential for contagion until a diagnosis can be made. Your doctor will perform a strep throat test from the infected area, and can usually determine from that whether or not you have strep throat.
Bear in mind that while many types of infections are contagious, they often behave differently and are treated differently than another. If you’ve been exposed to strep, you may even be a carrier without showing any symptoms. When in doubt, always talk to your doctor about any alarming signs or symptoms, and never assume that you know the nature of the infection based on its appearance.