Does your child's throat hurt when s/he swallows? It could be a sore throat or it could even be the dreaded Strep throat. In clinic, I often care for kids who have sore throats, or pharyngitis, from viral colds, dry throats, and throat irritation.
Sometimes, pharyngitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Up to 30% of sore throats in children are Strep throat, a Group A Strep infection. Strep throat usually develops abruptly without a cough and may be accompanied by fever, chills, headache, swollen tonsils, tender neck lymph nodes, nausea, vomiting, or a skin rash of small red bumps. Babies with Strep throat may only display fever, increased fussiness and decreased appetite.
The diagnosis of Strep throat is made when the typical symptoms are present and a swab of the back of the throat shows evidence of Group A Strep. Unlike viral sore throats, Strep throat is treated with antibiotics to prevent worsened infection and possible damage to nerves, joints, and the heart. Kids with Strep throat should stay home from school until they are fever-free and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Sore throats that persist or worsen should be re-evaluated by a healthcare provider.
Strep throat is contagious and can easily spread. Germs are in the droplets released from infected people when they sneeze and cough. When we breathe these in or transfer them to our noses and mouths, then we may become infected. The best ways to prevent the spread of infection is to wash your hands often with soap under running water for 20 seconds, use alcohol hand sanitizer if we cannot readily wash our hands, and cover your coughs and sneezes.
Dr. Clarisse Valencia is a board-certified Family Medicine physician with a background in bioengineering and a passion for health education and wellness. She received her medical degree from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and completed the Kaiser Permanente, FMC, Family Medicine Residency Program.