Strep Throat Symptoms & Treatment

31 May

Your child has been complaining about a sore throat and has a fever, and you’ve been wondering, “Does my child have strep throat?” We asked Brenda Anders Pring, M.D., a pediatrician at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates’ Copley practice, to tell us the differences between strep throat and a sore throat, what the symptoms of strep throat are and how strep throat is treated once your child is diagnosed with this bacterial infection.

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat.

How can parents tell the difference between strep throat and a sore throat?

It can be difficult for parents to tell the difference between strep and a sore throat. Strep throat is most common in children between ages 5-15. It typically comes with high fever and sore throat, but not many other symptoms. A sore throat is more often caused by a viral infection and can come with a runny nose, cough and congestion. Because it can be hard to tell the difference, it’s usually best to call the pediatrician to discuss if a test for strep should be done.  

What are symptoms of strep throat?

In addition to a high fever, strep throat can also cause swollen lymph nodes and can make it difficult or painful to swallow.

How is strep throat treated?

Strep throat is treated with antibiotics, generally a 10-day course of oral amoxicillin.

How does strep throat spread?

Strep throat is spread through close contact with infected people, which is why it’s often spread between children in schools. Things like sharing utensils or drinking out of the same cup or bottle can increase the risk of infection.

How can we prevent children from contracting strep from friends or in the classroom?

Abiding by general healthy hygiene principles can help prevent the spread of strep. We advise people to wash hands and avoid sharing utensils. It’s important to stay home from school when you’re sick to avoid infecting others. If you have another child at home, make sure they’re practicing healthy hygiene, as strep can often spread throughout the household.

If diagnosed with strep, how long should a child stay home from school?

Generally, strep is no longer contagious 24 hours after the first dose of antibiotics, so I would advise parents to keep their children home for at least one full day after they start taking medication.

If a child has strep throat, what can we do at home to keep him comfortable?

Warm or cold drinks can be soothing, as well as cold foods like popsicles. Children over the age of 4 may benefit from throat lozenges, and children over the age of 6 may find that gargling salt water helps to soothe the pain. In addition to antibiotics to treat the strep, medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can reduce fever and pain. 

What foods or drinks should be avoided if a child has strep throat?

Most drinks are fine to consume with strep throat. It would be wise to avoid foods that may be scratchy or have rough sides. Pretzels, for example, may irritate the throat.

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