Strep Throat or Sore Throat?

Leaning GirlA sore throat is one of the more elusive common illnesses your child will experience. The first thought most parents have when they hear their child complain of throat pain is: Could it be strep throat? While most sore throats heal on their own, if your child has strep throat, she will need an antibiotic to battle the infection.

Strep is a throat and tonsil infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, sometimes referred to as “group A strep.” This bacteria passes from person to person through sneezes and coughs, and it nestles into the nose and throat, causing acute pain and discomfort. Here are the most common symptoms of strep throat:

  • A sore throat that seems to come on quickly
  • Severe pain when swallowing
  • Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Patches of white on tonsils
  • Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Headache, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash
  • Body aches

What to do if your child has a strep throat?

If you suspect your child has strep, call your pediatrician. You can’t self-diagnose through a visual examination. At the doctor’s, your child will receive a strep test, which is a done by quickly swabbing the back of the throat to check for the presence of the streptococcus bacteria. If your child does have strep, your pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics. Once your child begins treatment, he should feel better in a day or two. Antibiotic treatment also helps contain the spread of infection. Children can usually return to school after being on antibiotics for 24 hours. Be sure to finish the entire course of the antibiotic, even if your child is feeling much better.

If your child is not getting better after 24 hours of treatment, call your pediatrician. Sometimes what appears as a strep throat, may be the beginning of infectious mononucleosis, also called "mono," and requires further follow-up with your pediatrician.