Mommy, My Throat Hurts

At a certain point, a mom gets to know the signs her child is coming down with something. Often, the first sign of childhood illness is a tummy ache. The same is true of strep infection. We think of strep as the cause of a sore throat, though sometimes there is no sore throat at all—there may be just a headache or a bellyache—or perhaps no symptoms at all!

White Spots

Strep throat is an infection caused by the bacteria known as Group A beta hemolytic streptococci. Babies aren't susceptible to these infections, but once your child hits toddler-hood, he'll likely have these infections here and there. In general, a child with strep will have a fever and a sore throat. The tonsils are usually swollen and will have white spots of pus on them.

The symptoms may not reach the throat, or they may reach beyond the throat. Sometimes there is a complication called scarlet fever in which a rash develops. The rash is red with tiny bumps. The skin looks sunburned and has the appearance of sand paper. The fever comes first with the rash appearing a day later. 

Strep throat is not dangerous in and of itself, but there are some complications associated with this infection that can be quite serious. The possible complications include rheumatic fever which can sometimes damage the heart and glomerulonephritis, which can damage the kidneys. These complications are all but unheard of in children under the age of two. So the rare infant who develops strep throat is unlikely to develop any serious complications.

Strep Carriers

If your child has a sore throat, and your doctor suspects he may have strep throat, he will order a throat culture. If the culture is positive for strep, your child will need antibiotic treatment. Many different types of antibiotics are effective for this infection.

In around 25% of all cases of strep, there are no symptoms. However, those infected are still carriers for the bacteria and can transmit strep to others though they feel perfectly fine. Most cases of strep develop within a week of contact with a carrier. So, if your child had contact with a known case of strep and a week has gone by, consider her off the hook for strep.

If your child is found to have strep, she will be considered free of contagion after 24 hours of antibiotic treatment and can then return to day care or to school.