Preparing for Winter: A Look at Sore Throat and Strep Throat in Kids

boy has strep throat. Children's ENT doctor examines boy's throat. Children's diseases, medical examination.If you are a parent to a small child or a kid in middle school or high school, you probably associate colder seasons with a lot of sick days, missed school, cough syrup, late nights, and all the wonderful things that come with the common colds, flu, and other infections. This year might be a little different, considering that many schools have yet to open 100%, so perhaps the rapid wildfire-like spread of the common runny nose might not be as pronounced. And yet, winter tends to be a season of infections, primarily because people tend to be indoors more and sharing the same breathing air. Viral infections and bacteria tend to spread more easily indoors. In addition to the common cold and flu, there are also other infections that seem to tag onto children and young adults more and then spread around the household. These include the pesky sore throat and the strep throat. Let’s take a look at both and how you might be able to identify when your child is suffering from strep throat, which can be highly contagious. 

Most sore throats are derived from one or two basic causes: infectious sources and non-infectious sources. Infectious sources would include common colds or viruses, strep throat, tonsillitis, flu, mononucleosis, chickenpox, measles, and more. 

The non-infectious sources can be attributed to chronic allergies, nasal drainage, dry air caused by indoor heating, breathing through the mouth, sore throat, acid reflux, or heartburn. In a place like El Paso, allergies seem to be a big problem for a big population of kids, so it is totally possible that during allergy season your child suffers from a sore throat associated with allergies. 

The Bacteria That Causes Strep Throat

Another common culprit of sore throats can be strep throat, although this type of sore throat is caused by a very specific bacteria called A Streptococcus. This type of bacteria can cause a variety of different infections that affect different parts of the body. A lot of these are more common and relatively minor infections like the well-known strep throat. Other infections caused by A Streptococcus include scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and cellulitis which is associated with open wound injuries. 

How to Know if Your Child Might Be Suffering from Strep Throat

Most sore throats are caused by viruses and those are the most common. The sore throats that are caused by Strep are caused by bacterial infections, so they are a little different and perhaps not as common as people think. These infections are most common in school-age children and not so much in infants. Because the infection can quickly spread, children that are going to school and in contact with infected surfaces or other children might have a higher chance of getting this. 

Having a strep throat is no fun for your child! They will have a period of being very contagious and likely pass it on to siblings or other family members before they even know. After a certain period, however, the infection is no longer transmissible via contact and it begins to subside. 

Common Signs of a Strep Throat May Include:

  • Sore throat
  • If your child has difficulty swallowing or it hurts to swallow
  • A fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain and/or nausea
  • A red skin rash

The pain and discomfort of a sore throat without any cold/flu symptoms might also be an indication that your child might have strep throat. Feeling the lymph nodes for swelling can be another good way to verify. 

In most cases, the physician will be able to diagnose strep throat without any tests, but sometimes a throat culture might be necessary to ensure that the infection is indeed caused by A Streptococcus. This allows the physician to ensure that the mode of treatment is appropriate. Usually, a strep throat is treated with antibiotics and has a high rate of recovery with no complications. 

What is the Strep Test?

For the most part, there is a quick and easy test that looks for the particular type of bacteria strain in the throat. There is a rapid strep test that works pretty well but can also yield a false negative. This happens about 15% of the time, but can always be confirmed with the more involved throat culture. If the quick test yields a positive, then your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Your child should feel better within 48 hours. 

If you suspect your child is suffering from strep throat, don’t wait. It’s better to get the quick test and start combating that infection right away. A sore throat is no fun and here at EP Family and Pediatrics, we see plenty of them during flu season. That’s why it’s good to keep your child healthy through a good diet and exercise, as well as the occasional check-up to your trusted pediatrician! If you’re looking for a trusted family doctor, call EP Family and Pediatrics today.

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