Not all sore throats are strep throats. Often, kids have a sore throat because
, which will usually clear up without medical treatment.
Kids who do have strep throat might get other symptoms within about 3 days, such
red and white patches in the throat
lower stomach pain
general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
loss of appetite
Is Strep Throat Contagious?
Strep throat is very contagious. Anybody can get it, but most cases are in school-age
kids and teens. Infections are common during the school year when big groups of kids
and teens are in close quarters.
How Do People Get Strep Throat?
The bacteria that cause strep throat tend to hang out in the nose and throat. So
normal activities like sneezing, coughing, or shaking hands can easily spread an infection
from one person to another.
Kids with untreated strep throat are more likely to spread the infection when their
symptoms are most severe, but can still infect others for up to 3 weeks.
That's why it's so important to teach kids the importance of hand
washing. Good hygiene can lessen their chances of getting contagious diseases
like strep throat.
How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?
If your child has a sore throat and other strep throat symptoms, call your doctor.
The doctor will likely do a rapid
strep test in the office, using a cotton swab to take a sample of the fluids at
the back of the throat. The test only takes about 5 minutes.
If it's positive, your child has strep throat. If it's negative, the doctor will
send a sample to a lab for a throat culture.
The results are usually available within a few days.
How Is Strep Throat Treated?
Doctors usually prescribe about 10 days of antibiotic medicine to treat strep throat.
Within about 24 hours after starting on antibiotics, your child probably won't have
a fever and won't be contagious. By the second or third day, other symptoms should
start to go away.
Even when kids feel better, they should take the antibiotics as prescribed. This
is the best way to kill the harmful bacteria. Otherwise, bacteria can remain in the
throat and symptoms can return. Completing all the antibiotics also prevents other
health problems that a strep infection can cause, such as rheumatic fever (which can
cause heart damage), scarlet fever,
blood infections, or kidney disease.
To prevent spreading strep throat to others in your home:
Keep your child's eating utensils, dishes, and drinking glasses separate and wash
them in hot, soapy water after each use.
Make sure your child doesn't share food, drinks, napkins, handkerchiefs, or towels
with other family members.
Teach your child to cover all sneezes or coughs. If a tissue isn't handy, kids
should sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve, not their hands.
Remind everyone to wash their hands well and often.
Give your child a new toothbrush after the antibiotic treatment starts and he
or she is no longer contagious.
How Can I Help My Child Feel Better?
Home care can help your child feel better while battling strep throat. Give plenty
of liquids to prevent dehydration,
such as water or ginger ale, especially if he or she has had a fever. Avoid orange
juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, or other acidic beverages, which can irritate a
sore throat. Warm liquids like soups, sweetened tea, or hot chocolate can be soothing.
Talk to your doctor about when your child can return to normal activities. Most
kids can go back to school when they've taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours and
no longer have a fever.