As a parent, few things can tug at your heartstrings like knowing your child is sick or in pain. Strep throat gives a good dose of both sickness and pain. The hallmark sign is an extremely sore throat, with white pustules on the tonsils. They may be able to tell you that their throat hurts, if they are old enough. You might also notice that they feel feverish or refuse their favorite foods. Understanding more about strep throat helps you know how to provide your child with the care they need to feel better.
What Causes Strep Throat?
A sore throat can have many different causes. Strep throat is caused by a certain type of bacteria called group A streptococcus. This kind of bacteria is known for being very contagious. A person who is carrying the bacteria in their nose or throat can spread it when they cough or sneeze. You can also pick up the bacteria from surfaces and transfer them to your body by touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
When Should I Bring My Child to the Doctor?
It can sometimes be hard for parents to know when new symptoms are serious enough to call the doctor. Strep throat can often mimic other conditions. Unlike throat soreness from an allergy, strep throat typically worsens the first few days and stays painful until it resolves in 5-7 days, with or without treatment. Treatment is recommended to reduce the possibility of complications, to reduce pain, and to minimize family/community spread.
Watch for these signs that your child needs to visit their pediatrician:
- throat pain that comes on suddenly
- painful swallowing
- body aches
- red throat with possible white patches
- nausea or vomiting
- body rash with or without a sore throat (also known as Scarlet Fever*)
People under the age of 25 can have permanent heart complications (rheumatic heart disease) if strep throat is not treated with antibiotics. If you believe your child is exhibiting symptoms of strep throat, please make an appointment with your pediatrician.
How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting Strep?
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to prevent strep throat. Try not to share items that go in your child’s mouth without properly cleaning them first. Strep throat is often spread among siblings and parents by drinking out of the same cup. Older children can be taught to carry their own water bottle at school and to avoid sharing food with their friends.
As with all communicable illnesses, frequent hand washing is one of your best defenses. Practice proper hand washing with your children at home, and remember to spend at least 20 seconds lathering up and rinsing the germs away.
Strep throat is one of those common childhood illnesses that most parents will come across at some point. The good news is that this bacterial throat infection is easily treatable. Schedule an appointment as soon as you notice the symptoms. We can give your child a treatment plan that will help them feel better soon.
*Scarlet Fever sounds scary, but it is just strep with a rash.