When the fall and winter hit, the flu, colds, COVID-19, and strep throat circulate through daycare, playdates, and schools. All of these, and other random viruses, can cause a sore throat. Changes in temperature, home heating, allergies, and a really excited day yelling on the playground can also make your child wake up with a sore throat.
So, when should you be concerned? Our team at Penguin Pediatrics, consisting of Dr. Umesh Kodu and Dr. Andrea McKennon, have some suggestions as to when you should suspect your child’s sore throat might be strep.
Here are some questions you can ask your child and symptoms to watch for to help you decide whether you should bring them into our office for a strep test.
If your child is old enough to communicate their symptoms, it’s a real asset in helping you decide whether to get a strep test.
Ask them things like:
Strep throat usually makes your child’s throat seriously hurt, so they have trouble swallowing. The pain comes on suddenly.
They may also have a headache and lower stomach pain or nausea. General feelings of unwellness or fatigue can accompany strep infections.
In addition to sudden, intense throat pain, your child may also run a fever. They’ll have body aches and chills. Sometimes they develop a rash on their body.
You can also look for swelling and red and white patches in the throat and loss of appetite.
Strep throat is highly contagious. It’s caused by a bacteria that contaminates the nose and throat, so your child can be easily exposed to it from an infected person’s sneeze, cough, or touch of the hand.
If you hear of other kids in your child’s playgroup having strep, note other parents posting about strep on social media, or otherwise hear that strep is “going around,” it’s very possible your child’s sore throat is strep, too.
If your child has a mild sore throat and no fever or accompanying symptoms, help your child stay hydrated. Sometimes, a sore throat is simply a result of dryness. If the mild sore throat persists for more than a day or two, it’s a good idea to call our office for a sick visit.
A child who has a fever, nausea, rash, fatigue, chills, and/or body aches along with a sore throat should get a strep test.
We do in-office rapid strep tests that give you results in just a few minutes. Your doctor uses a cotton swab to take a sample of cells from the back of the throat and cultures it in the office.
If the rapid test comes back negative but your doctor still suspects strep throat, they’ll send the results to a lab. Your results come back in a couple of days.
Because a bacterial infection causes strep throat, antibiotics should clear up the symptoms in about 3-4 days. Within about 24 hours of taking antibiotics, your child will no longer be contagious and any fever should go down.
Even though your child starts to feel better, you need to have them take the entire course of antibiotics to wipe out the infection. The antibiotics prevent other complications of strep that include rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, kidney disease, and blood infections.
Minimize spread of strep throat by making sure no one in the household shares food, drinks, or towels with your infected child. Make sure they cover their mouth when they sneeze. Also, remind everyone in the house to wash their hands with soap and water often.
If you need to schedule a sick visit, strep test, or other appointment, call one of the offices of Penguin Pediatrics in Ashburn or Stone Ridge, Virginia, or use our online booking tool to schedule your visit.