Strep Throat

Is your child complaining of a really sore throat? Is it so sore that he has difficulty eating? Then he may just have strep throat.

Pain in the Throat
Strep throat is a bacterial infection produced by the streptococcus bacteria, hence the name strep. This bacteria causes extremely painful swelling of the throat.

School-aged children, as well as children in daycare, are by far the most affected by strep throat. This is because strep is contagious and easily spread when people are in close, crowded contact with each other. Strep is passed through droplets that spread when a person sneezes, coughs or laughs. However, strep can also occur when you come into contact with a hard surface, like a book, that has been handled by an infected person.

What Does Strep Throat Look Like?
If you suspect your child has strep, then take a look at her tonsils and the back of her throat. If they are red and swollen and have specks of pus that are whitish or yellowish in color, then it is very likely that she has strep. However, there are viruses that can cause your child�s tonsils to look red and have a coating of pus. Therefore, it is important to have a doctor properly make a diagnosis of strep throat before any course of treatment is started.

Strep Throat Symptoms
Signs of strep generally begin to appear within 1 to 3 days of exposure to the infection. The main sign of strep is an extremely sore throat, although hoarseness and loss of voice is not often associated with strep. It is common for the throat to be so inflamed that it is difficult to eat. However, the other symptoms of strep throat can vary depending on the age of the person affected.

In adults, strep throat symptoms can include:


  • Swollen neck glands
  • Fever


In addition to the above symptoms, children can also experience:


  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rarely, they can also get a red skin rash

While it is not common for infants to develop strep throat, unless they are in daycare, the symptoms of strep throat in infants tend to include:


  • Runny nose
  • Low fever
  • Sores and/or crusting around the nose and nostrils
  • Not feeding well

Diagnosis and Treatment
It is quite easy for your family doctor to diagnose strep throat. This is usually done through a throat culture, whereby a cotton swab is used to take a sample of your child�s throat secretions. This sample is then sent off to a lab for analysis and you will find out the results within 24 to 48 hours.

Some doctors may use a rapid swab test that provides a result within 15 minutes. However, because the quick tests have an error rate of 20%, negative swabs are often sent to a lab just to be sure.

Treatment for strep throat almost always consists of antibiotics and generally lasts for seven days. Although symptoms should start to improve within two or three days, it is important to finish all medication prescribed to your child. Strep throat that is not completely treated, or if it is left untreated, can lead to rheumatic fever as well as kidney problems. Other, more common complications of strep include sinus problems, ear infections, pneumonia and skin infections.

If your child�s symptoms do not begin to improve after two to three days of starting strep throat treatment, or his symptoms get worse, contact your doctor. Additionally, you should contact your doctor if any of the following occur during treatment:


  • Skin rash develops
  • Nasal mucus is discolored or bloody
  • Cough develops, especially if it is accompanied by phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Convulsions
  • Queasiness or vomiting
  • Joints become red and/or swollen

Home Remedies
Although there is little you can do at home to get rid of the bacterial infection, there are some things you can try to help alleviate your child�s discomfort and speed up their recovery. First, it is important that all children (and adults, for that matter) with strep get lots of rest. While children can play, they should partake in quiet games and activities that won�t cause them to exert a lot of energy.

Although your child may not want to eat because her throat hurts, it is important for her to take in as much nutrition as possible. If she also has a fever, then you need to make sure she stays well hydrated so that she does not loose too many fluids. Feeding her a soft diet or liquefying her food is one way to make her diet easier. Warm and cool liquids can help ease the pain of her throat as can sucking on a Popsicle.

The typical sore throat remedies, including throat lozenges, may work for some older children and adults, but more often than not, these candies are not effective enough to soothe the throat. Another remedy that may work for some is gargling with 8oz (1 cup) of warm water mixed with ¼ teaspoon of salt. You can also use a cool-mist humidifier in your child�s room to add some moisture to the air.

Giving your child ibuprofen or Tylenol can help reduce the inflammation of the throat and thereby relieve some of the pain. Never give children under 18 aspirin; it can cause serious health problems in children.

Prevention of Strep
If your child develops strep throat, he should be taken out of school or day care until his fever has cleared up and he has been receiving treatment for at least 24 hours. However, a person can still be contagious for up to three days after starting antibiotics, so it may not hurt to err on the side of caution and keep him home an extra day in order to avoid infecting others.

At home, be sure to wash all your dishes, cutlery and glasses in hot, soapy water. This will help to make sure any strep throat germs are killed and not passed on to other family members. Additionally, remember to wash your own hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water after you care for your sick child. You may also want to replace your child�s toothbrush after an infection as it is thought that the strep bacteria can remain on a toothbrush and cause a re-infection.

You do not develop immunity to strep throat and can have recurring strep throat. If you or your child gets infected with strep five times or more in one year, then your doctor may recommend having the tonsils removed.

Chat with other moms about childhood illnesses in our forum.