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Not every sore throat is the same. Sore throats caused by a virus will go away on their own without treatment. However, if your child has been diagnosed with strep throat, here are a few things to know to keep you informed.

Strep throat is caused by the Strep pyogenes bacteria, or Group A Strep. Typical signs and symptoms associated with strep throat include:

  • Extremely sore throat
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Often, a throat that is infected with the strep bacteria will appear very red and inflamed. You may see whitish pus on the tonsils or red spots in the back of the throat. However, these findings are not diagnostic as they can be seen in viral infections as well.

If you are concerned that your child has strep throat based on the above symptoms, a visit to the doctor is in order. Your child’s pediatrician will likely swab your child’s throat to detect the presence of strep. Most doctors have a rapid strep test in the office, which is fairly reliable but can give false negatives. Some doctors may send a throat culture if the rapid test is negative but they are highly suspicious of strep, which typically takes two days for results.

If your child has been diagnosed with strep throat, he or she will need to be treated with antibiotics to clear the infection. Penicillin is the drug of choice, although most pediatricians will prescribe amoxicillin because it tastes better. If your child is unable or unwilling to take the antibiotic, a shot of penicillin will work just as well. There are other antibiotics that can be prescribed if your child is allergic to penicillin.

It is extremely important to finish the entire course of antibiotics. Untreated strep can lead to complications down the road. Potential complications include:

  • An abscess in or around the tonsils
  • Glomerulonephritis, a condition that affects the kidneys
  • Rheumatic fever, a condition that affects the heart

Some children are strep carriers, meaning that the bacteria lives in the throat but dies not cause symptoms. Treatment with antibiotics usually does not eradicate the bacteria. This is not harmful to your child, but he or she does have the ability to spread the bacteria to others.

Strep throat is extremely contagious and is often passed quickly through classrooms and childcare facilities. To prevent the spread of infection, teach your child to wash hands frequently and cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing. If your child has been diagnosed with strep throat, be sure to keep him or her out of school until there hasn’t been a fever for at least 24 hours. Also don’t forget to throw away the old toothbrush to prevent reinfection.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019

Takeaways

  • Symptoms associated with strep throat include a very sore throat, fever, and possible abdominal pain and vomiting.
  • Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics, including penicillin.
  • It’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics even after symptoms disappear.
  • Strep throat is very contagious and untreated strep can lead to long-term problems.

References

  1. American Family Physician. Diagnosis and Treatment of Streptococcal Pharyngitis.
  2. KidsHealth.org. Strep Throat.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Strep Throat.

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