Strep Throat in Kids

sore throatWhen it comes to young children, it can often be difficult to determine when they aren’t well. This is especially true for toddlers who can be crying one moment and bouncing around the next. Strep throat in kids is very common among those who are in a day care setting or school where they play around a large group of kids. It can also occur in infants and toddlers from exposure to a sibling or someone who is infected. It can spread very quickly and lead to serious problems if left untreated.

Having previously worked in child care I’ve seen firsthand how quickly strep can be passed around. Once one child had it the infection spread like wild fire. The same is true for households! Fortunately, it can be easily treated with proper medical care.

Symptoms of Strep Throat in Kids

One of the main symptoms with strep is sore throat. This is why many believe that a sore throat is almost always strep throat; however, such is not the case. A typical sore throat that is accompanied with runny nose, coughing, and hoarseness are usually caused by a virus. Unlike a virus that clears up by itself, strep throat is brought on by bacteria and requires antibiotics. Symptoms of strep generally include:

  • Red tonsils that are swollen
  • Patches of red and white in the throat
  • Fever higher than 101°F
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty or discomfort with swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Rash

Young children sometimes have difficulty communicating what feels bad. If your child isn’t complaining of their throat hurting, but appears to have a decreased appetite or it seems painful to swallow it could be an indication. Likewise, any time your child is running a fever and appears ill or they are not acting like themselves, this is usually a sign that they aren’t feeling well. A strep infection can also present itself with a sore throat that is accompanied by a rash that feels rough like sandpaper. The rash typically starts at the neck and can spread to the chest and the rest of the body.

You should always contact your child’s pediatrician if your child isn’t well, especially if they experience any or all of the aforementioned symptoms such as sore throat and a rash. Strep throat left untreated or not treated properly (stopping medication early) could lead to other potentially harmful conditions such as permanent heart damage due to rheumatic fever, kidney disease, or scarlet fever.

If your doctor suspects strep throat, they will usually perform a swab test where they’ll swab the back of your child’s throat to test it for strep. It is not painful, though most children don’t feel comfortable with having their throats swabbed. The test only takes a few minutes to get results.

Treatment for Strep Throat in Kids

little girl taking medicine

Treatment generally includes a course of antibiotics for 10 days along with ample rest and fluids. After 24 hours of antibiotics and no fever, your child is no longer contagious and will usually begin feeling better. It’s important to complete the entire course of the antibiotics to ensure all bacteria from the infection are gone.

You can help your child prevent the spread of the infection by:

  • Keeping them home for at least 24 hours
  • Encourage proper hand washing technique
  • Teaching them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their sleeve
  • Refrain from sharing food, drinks, and other items

Be sure to switch out your child’s toothbrush after they have been on antibiotic treatment for 24 hours. Also disinfect all toys and be sure to wash utensils, cups, and plates in hot, soapy water. With proper care and treatment, your child will be back to their usual, active self in no time.

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