Strep throat is an infection caused by highly contagious streptococcal bacteria. It can spread through coughing, sneezing or sharing food or drinks. At Children's Health℠, we see lots of kids with strep throat, especially during cold and flu season. If your think your child may have strep throat, see your doctor. Although strep itself isn't dangerous, it can lead to complications that may be.
Although a sore throat is the most common symptom of strep throat, only a small percentage of sore throats are strep throat. It most often occurs in kids between the ages of 5 and 15. Other symptoms of strep throat may include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Red, swollen tonsils, which may have white patches or pus
- Red spots near the back of the roof of the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Fever (with chills), headache or rash
- Stomachache or vomiting (usually in younger kids)
It is possible for some kids to be carriers of strep without having any symptoms.
Because sore throats are common in children and can be due to many other reasons, your child's doctor will perform a specific test for strep.
Left untreated, strep throat can lead to inflammation of the kidneys or rheumatic fever (rarely). Rheumatic fever can cause damage to the valves of a child's heart. Signs of rheumatic fever include pain or swelling of joints, a rash or shortness of breath up to three weeks after the strep infection.
Your child's doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat. Symptoms usually go away in about a week. Keep your child home from school or daycare for at least a day once he begins taking antibiotics. Replace her toothbrush once the infection is gone. Things that can make a child with strep throat feel better include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil or Tylenol
- Drinking warm liquids
- Gargling with warm salt water several times a day
- Sucking on popsicles or throat lozenges (not for young kids)
- Using a cool-mist vaporizer or a humidifier
One of the best ways for your child to avoid getting strep is to stay away from other sick kids. If your child does get strep, though,come see us. We’re here to help.
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