Strep throat is an infection that causes symptoms such as a sore throat and fever. Strep throat can be extremely painful and can even cause severe health complications if left untreated. So if you suspect a case of strep throat in your child, be sure to visit a doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Strep Throat
Strep throat is caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria (also called group A streptococcus). Because it is bacterial, it is extremely contagious and often spreads rapidly through schools, daycares, and other childcare settings. Streptococcal bacteria spreads through droplets when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. It is most commonly seen in children ages 5 to 15, although kids and adults of all ages can get strep throat.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Symptoms of strep throat can be mild or severe and typically begin about 1 to 3 days after exposure. They include:
- Sore throat
- Red throat with white patches
- Pain when swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Skin rash
If you suspect strep throat, a visit to your child’s pediatrician may be in order for testing and treatment options.
Treatment of Strep Throat
Although strep throat causes a sore throat in most cases, not all sore throats are due to strep. Your child’s healthcare provider will likely conduct tests for both flu and strep, depending on their symptoms and the current spread in the community.
A rapid strep test is often enough to diagnose the illness, although in some cases, the throat swab must be sent to a lab and cultured. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, strep throat is typically treated with antibiotics. Penicillin and amoxicillin are the most commonly prescribed, although there are many other types of antibiotics that can be used if your child has a penicillin allergy. Be sure that your child finishes the entire course of antibiotics (usually about 10 days) even if symptoms resolve. Otherwise, the bacteria that cause strep throat can return.
Home remedies such as tea with honey, gargling with salt water, throat lozenges, and using a vaporizer or humidifier can also help your child find relief from their symptoms.
It is very important to keep your child home from school while they are contagious. According to the CDC, students with strep throat should stay home until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours. In addition, be sure to take steps like frequent handwashing and not sharing food or drinks with other family members to prevent the spread of the bacteria in your home.
Symptoms of strep throat should resolve in about a week. In rare instances, untreated cases of strep throat can lead to complications such as:
- Kidney disease
- Throat abscess
- Rheumatic fever
- Scarlet fever
Call your child’s doctor or visit your local emergency center ASAP if you suspect any serious complications.
If you think your child may have strep throat, give us a call today to schedule a convenient office visit with one of our board-certified pediatricians.