Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Strep throat is an infection caused by the bacteria called Group A streptococci. Strep infections are more common during winter months when people are indoors more. The bacteria spread from person to person through fluid droplets from the nose or throat. Children, especially those that are in school or child care, are the most common age group to be infected by Group A streptococci.
Strep throat usually appears between 2 and 7 days after exposure. An infected child will have a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever above 101°F with chills, body ache, and may have a stomachache. The child’s tonsils and back of the throat may look red, swollen, and spotted with whitish or yellowish specks of pus and glands in the child’s neck may be swollen.
In rare cases, the streptococci may produce a toxin that will cause a bright red, rough rash on the skin. This is known as “scarlet fever” and usually lasts from the second to sixth day of the strep infection and is no more dangerous than a regular strep infection.
Strep throat infections that go untreated or do not receive a complete treatment may lead to rheumatic fever, which is an illness that can result in heart disease and arthritis, or glomerulonephritis, which is a kidney problem that can begin 2 to 3 weeks after the beginning of the infection.
There is no perfect way to avoid getting strep throat. If you are caring for a child with a strep infection, wash their drinking glasses and eating utensils in hot, soapy water. Also, wash your hands often and make sure that your child washes his or her hands.
If your doctor thinks that your child has a strep infection, he or she will take a throat culture by swabbing your child’s throat. If the test returns positive for strep, your doctor may prescribe penicillin or an antibiotic. Keep in mind that 90% of sore throats are caused by viral infections and do not require antibiotics.
Fever usually stops within 2 to 5 days and the sore throat disappears soon after the fever ends. After completing two days of antibiotic treatment, your child should no longer be contagious, but he or she needs to finish the amount that the doctor prescribes.
A child with severe strep throat may not feel like eating because it hurts when he or she swallows. Provide soft foods or soups. Be sure that he or she gets plenty of fluids and rests. If an older child has strep, he or she may gargle with warm, salty water, but make sure that he or she spits the salt water out when finished.
If your child is being treated for strep, call your doctor if you notice any of the following:
Nasal discharge with discolored or bloody mucus
Shortness of breath
Painful, red, swollen joints
Nausea or vomiting.