Strep throat is a disease caused by a tiny ball-shaped type of bacteria (say: bak-TEER-ee-uh)
called group A streptococcus (say: strep-tuh-KAH-kus).
If a kid has strep throat, the doctor will give him or her medicine called an antibiotic
(say: an-tye-bye-AH-tik) to kill the strep bacteria. That's good news because sometimes
strep throat can get worse and cause problems with other parts of a kid's body. For
example, untreated strep can cause arthritis
(say: ar-THRY-tis), kidney problems, or heart problems from a disease called rheumatic
(say: roo-MA-tick) fever.
Most of the time kids get the medicine they need and recover from strep throat
very quickly. After taking the medicine for 24 hours, you will feel a lot better and
will no longer be contagious.
How Do I Know if I Have Strep Throat?
If you have a sore throat, your doctor will look into
your mouth. He or she looking for:
a red throat
white or yellow spots on your tonsils
small red spots in the roof of your mouth
Most of the time, strep will give you a sore throat, headache,
stomachache, and fever. It probably won't give you a runny nose or cough.
To be sure you have strep throat, your doctor may do one
or two tests:
First, he or she can do a rapid strep test to
check for strep bacteria. The doctor rubs a cotton swab over the back of your throat.
Then, the doctor can find out in a few minutes if you have strep throat.
If the first test doesn't prove anything, your doctor
might do a longer test called a throat culture. Again, the doctor
will use a cotton swab. This time, the sample goes on a special dish and is left to
sit for 2 nights. If you have strep throat, the bacteria will usually grow in the
dish within 1–2 days.
How Can I Get Better?
If you have strep throat, your doctor will give you an antibiotic,
a medicine that kills bacteria. To make sure the bacteria go away completely and don't
spread to other parts of your body, you must finish all of the medicine. Your doctor
will have you take the pills or liquid for 10 days.
It's really important to take all 10 days of the medicine to make sure
all the bad bacteria are gone. If you don't, you could get sick all over
Your mom or dad may give you acetaminophen (say: uh-see-tuh-MIN-uh-fin) to get
rid of aches, pains, and fever. You'll want to have soothing drinks, like tea and
warm chicken soup. Frozen foods like ice cream or popsicles also can help to ease
throat pain. Avoid spicy and acidic foods, such as orange juice, because they could
hurt your tender throat.
Your doctor will tell you to stay home from school until you have been taking the
antibiotic for at least 24 hours. This way, you won't spread the bacteria to others.
Is Strep Throat Contagious?
Strep throat is very contagious, and anybody can get it.
It happens a lot in kids and teens, especially during the school year when big groups
of kids are together.
How Do People Get Strep Throat?
Strep throat is spread when healthy people come into contact
with someone who has it. The bacteria can spread to you when a person with strep throat
sneezes, coughs, or blows his or her nose and you're nearby, or if you share the same
forks, spoons, or straws.
If you get strep throat, you'll start to feel sick within
5 days after you were around the person who gave it to you.
Can I Prevent Strep Throat?
If someone in your house has strep throat, you might get it. But following these
tips can help protect you:
Make sure the person with strep throat covers his or her mouth when sneezing and