This time of year, we hear a lot of complaints of sore throat, and we’ve been seeing pretty many cases of it the past few weeks. When your child has a sore throat, it’s good to know if antibiotics are necessary, or if you just need to wait it out. Here are a few facts that can help.
Sore throats can be caused by viruses or bacteria such as Streptococcus. Only about 5-10% of sore throats are caused by Strep. Besides sore throat, other symptoms of Strep throat can include headache, abdominal pain, and fever. Children may have swollen glands in the neck, decreased appetite, and white pus on the tonsils.
Strep throat generally does NOT cause cold symptoms such as runny nose and cough. That said, sore throats caused by viruses or bacteria can look and feel the same, so it’s usually best to give our office a call to decide if your child should be evaluated.
If your child has a sore throat and no cold symptoms, we will likely perform a rapid strep test in the office. This is done by swabbing the tonsils and back of the throat with a long cotton swab. The rapid strep test takes about 10 minutes to produce results. If the test is positive, we recommend antibiotics to kill the Strep germ. Because there are rare false negative results — the rapid test comes back negative, but your child really DOES have Strep — we follow-up negative results with a throat culture. If the culture grows the Strep germ, we will call you within a day or two to begin antibiotics.
If Strep is not treated with antibiotics, or if the antibiotics are not completed, the infection could worsen and even lead to diseases such as kidney problems or rheumatic fever (which is thankfully rare now in the United States). With Strep, children are considered contagious until they’ve been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours, so they’ll need to stay home from school and other activities. You can give your child ibuprofen along with the antibiotic to ease discomfort and alleve symptoms. Encourage plenty of fluids, as well as soft and/or cold foods such as popsicles.
The majority of sore throats in children are caused by viruses. In this case, we recommend treating the symptoms with ibuprofen or acetaminophen and plenty of fluids. These viruses are contagious, so it’s best to keep your child out of school until her fever is gone and she’s feeling better.
As always, if you have any questions about your child’s health, or if they are not getting better on the prescribed treatment, please give our office a call!
Here’s hoping your kids can finish out the school year in good health!Dr. Maddalena has been a Kids Plus Doc since 2006.