Staph Throat Infections

Staph infection in throat
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mehvish Khan


Could your sore throat be a staph infection? Learn more about this rare but painful bacterial infection.

Have you ever woken up to irritation or scratch at the back of your throat? Often this is a tell-tale sign that you have picked up a cold or flu (influenza) virus and need to stock up on some home remedies.

While this is often the case, it is not always true. In some rarer cases, the cause of your throat pain is a bacteria present in 20 to 30 percent of healthy people.

 What is Staph Bacteria?

Classified as among the deadliest of all disease-causing organisms since the 20th century, staphylococcal bacteria can be found on the skin or inside the nose of 20 to 30 percent of healthy people. As well as hiding inside the nose, it can also often be found in the mouth, on the breast tissue, and in the genital, urinary, and upper respiratory tracts.

New research has shown that a throat is also a popular place for this bacteria to thrive. An article in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology cited a study that determined Staphylococcus aureus colonization was more frequent in the throat than in the nostrils.

We often associate staph infections with the skin, but they can also cause an infection in your throat. Viral infection and strep infections may be more well known, staph infections can be just as serious.

While common, this bacteria is not harmless. In fact, it can prove itself to be deadly if left untreated.

What is a Staph Infection?

A staph infection is a type of contagious infection that is spread through staphylococcal bacteria. The formation of abscesses often characterizes this type of infection.

Abscess are formations of swollen tissues that are often painful and filled with pus. In the United States, these types of infections are the primary cause of infections originating in hospitals.  These abscesses will develop just under the skin’s surface or deep within the body. They will often eventually burst and eliminate pus, further spreading the infection. When the staph infection occurs on the throat, the abscesses will often develop on the tonsils. This can also cause the feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.

Staphylococcus aureus can survive in extreme heat and other inhospitable conditions to most bacteria. This type of bacteria flourishes in hospitals, where it can affect those who have open wounds and the healthcare professionals that treat them.

While this type of bacteria is found on 20 to 30 percent of healthy people, research has indicated a carrier rate as high as 60 percent in certain populations.

It also demonstrated that some people may carry the bacteria constantly, some are intermittent carriers and others will never carry the bacteria.

How do Staphylococcal (Staph) bacteria infect the body?

Staph bacteria will often enter the body through a compromise in the skin. This can mean an open wound, damaged hair follicles, or another injury that weakens the skin’s natural defenses and allow the bacteria to enter the body.

Do you have a sore throat? Consult with a doctor for evaluation!

Signs and Symptoms of a Staph Infection of the Throat

While strep throat is the most common bacterial infection of the throat, it is not always the reason for this painful affliction. Many of the symptoms may mirror that of strep throat including:

  • Pain, swelling and redness in the area
  • Abscesses in the area which may or may not produce pus
  • Difficulty swallowing

A visit to the doctor usually results in an examination of your throat as well as a swab of the fluid in the back of your mouth. While the results for a quick strep test would be negative, a closer lab examination would determine a staph infection in the throat.

With any bacterial infection, it is important to take antibiotics to clear up the infection. Your discomfort should subside after 24-48 hours of antibiotics, but it is important to continue the full course of treatment of the throat. However, if you are experiencing a high-pitched or wheezing sound when breathing, you must consult a doctor immediately.

Can a Staph throat infection lead to sepsis?

It is possible for a staph infection to enter the bloodstream and spread to other areas in the body. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence. 

When a staph infection spreads throughout a child’s body, it will often affect the ends of long bones in the child’s arms or legs. This can cause a bone infection. It can also cause abscesses on the brain, liver, kidneys, lungs or spleen.

Any sore throat that persists after a few days is not accompanied by a cough and includes your healthcare provider should check a fever.

Staph can cause serious infections if it gets into the blood, leading to sepsis or death. The following are the possibilities that can result in dangerous consequences:

  • If Staph is methicillin-resistant (MRSA) 
  • Staph can spread in and between hospitals, other healthcare facilities, and communities.

Staph infections can be dangerous if the bacteria enter your:

  • bloodstream (septicemia)
  • joints (septic arthritis)
  • lungs (pneumonia)
  • heart (endocarditis)
  • bones (osteomyelitis)
Do you have a throat infection? Talk to our doctor for a prescription

When to Consult a Doctor

There is nothing worse than spending time waiting to see a doctor when you aren’t feeling well. Not only are you potentially spreading your illness to others, but you are also potentially bringing new illnesses home.

Could you have a viral throat infection? Learn more here. 

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