Alexis L. Sawyer, M.D.
Strep throat, or streptococcus, is caused by a bacterial infection that can be passed through coughs, sneezes, kisses and saliva. More common in children than in adults, strep often strikes when the immune system is fighting off the common cold or flu.
It is often difficult for parents to tell the difference between a sore throat caused by a viral infection, which usually does not require an antibiotic, and streptococcus. However, knowing the difference is important. If strep is left untreated, it may lead to more serious illnesses that can affect the heart and kidneys.
Symptoms of strep throat can vary from child to child. Signs that your child may have strep include:
A child with any of these symptoms should see his or her pediatrician promptly. Upon diagnosis, confirmed by a throat culture or rapid strep test, the physician will prescribe an antibiotic to cure the infection.
Although your child will begin to feel better within a few days, it is important to complete the entire prescription and not miss any doses, or the infection could flare up again. Your child is no longer contagious after taking the antibiotic for 24 hours and may return to school if he or she feels better and does not have a fever.
In addition to taking an antibiotic, there are several other treatments that can be used to relieve the pain and discomfort that accompanies strep throat:
Because strep throat is highly contagious, other members of the family may become sick as well. If any child or adult comes down with a fever or sore throat, has been vomiting or experiences a lack of appetite, he or she should see a physician for a throat culture.
If your child’s fever continues longer than 48 hours after beginning an antibiotic or if you have any concerns, contact his or her pediatrician during office hours. If your child begins to drool, has problems swallowing or acts very sick you should call a physician immediately.