My child’s sore throat. Viral infection or strep throat? with Dr. Suaris

A common question that parents may have is whether their child’s sore throat is due to a viral infection or strep throat? A sore throat is a common symptom of both viral and bacterial infections in children. Understanding the difference can help you make an informed decision on how to treat your child's sore throat and when to seek medical attention.

Viral infections, such as the common cold or the flu, may have symptoms that will include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness
  • Body aches

These types of infections tend to get better or completely resolve within the first few days of illness without the need for antibiotics. Now, strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by the Streptococcus bacteria. Unlike viral infections, strep throat requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications such as rheumatic fever, a disease that may harm the heart valves.

Symptoms typically include:

  • Sudden onset sore throat
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white spots
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever above 100.4 Fahrenheit
  • Chills
  • Headache

It's important to take your child to the pediatrician if they have a sore throat that is accompanied by other symptoms suggestive of a bacterial infection, or if there is a concern for dehydration due to refusal of food and liquids. The doctor may perform a rapid strep test or a throat culture to determine if antibiotics are necessary.

It's also important to note that children under the age of 3 years old may have difficulty communicating their symptoms and may not be able to say that their throat hurts. In such cases, parents should look out for other signs such as difficulty swallowing, drooling, or refusing to eat or drink. In general, strep throat is rare under the age of 3.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious complications. If you suspect that your child may have strep throat, it's best to consult a pediatrician to determine the best course of treatment.

Published on: 3/3/2023

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