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2/14/23 blog post

when to be concerned about a sore throat

young boy holding neck sore throat

in this article:

A sore throat is a common ailment for both kids and adults, but not all sore throats are strep throat. Often, kids have a sore throat because of a virus, which will usually clear up without medical treatment. But occasionally, a kiddo’s sore throat may be an indication that something more is going on, like strep throat. According to Kids Health, strep throat is an infection caused by a type of bacteria (group A streptococcus). Strep bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial sore throat in children and teens. Strep throat typically needs treatment with antibiotics.

symptoms of strep throat:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Painful or swollen neck glands

Kids who do have strep throat might get other symptoms within about 3 days, such as:

  • Red and white patches in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A headache
  • Lower stomach pain
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rash

when to be concerned about a sore throat

is strep throat contagious?

Strep throat is very contagious. Anybody can get it, but most cases are in school-age kids and teens. Infections are common during the school year when big groups of kids and teens are in close quarters.

Kids with untreated strep throat are more likely to spread the infection when their symptoms are most severe but can still infect others for up to 3 weeks.

That's why it's so important to teach kids the importance of hand washing. Good hygiene can lessen their chances of getting contagious diseases like strep throat.

how is strep throat diagnosed?

If your child has a sore throat and other strep throat symptoms, call their pediatrician. If you can’t get into your child’s pediatrician, try one of Dayton Children’s Kids Express locations in Beavercreek, Mason, Springboro or West Chester. The provider will likely do a strep test in the office, using a cotton swab to take a sample of the fluids at the back of the throat. The test only takes about 45 minutes and you will have a definitive result.

If it's positive, your child has strep throat. 

how is strep throat treated?

Ten days of antibiotic medicine is usually prescribed to treat strep throat. Within about 24 hours after starting on antibiotics, your child probably won't have a fever and won't be contagious. By the second or third day, other symptoms should start to go away.

Even when kids feel better, they should still take the antibiotics as prescribed. This is the best way to kill the harmful bacteria. Otherwise, bacteria can remain in the throat and symptoms can return.

how can I help my child feel better?

Home care can help your child feel better while battling strep throat. Give plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, such as water or ginger ale, especially if he or she has had a fever. Avoid orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, or other acidic beverages, which can irritate a sore throat. Warm liquids like soups, sweetened tea, or hot chocolate can be soothing.

Talk to your doctor about when your child can return to normal activities. Most kids can go back to school when they've taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours and no longer have a fever.

If your child has multiple instances of strep throat each year, it might be time to consider having their tonsils removed. If you believe your child may benefit from having their tonsils removed, you can schedule an appointment online with one of our pediatric ENT providers. While children can still get strep, even after having their tonsils removed, it’s often less often and less severe.

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