Telltale Signs of Strep Throat

Your child is complaining of a sore throat and you begin to wonder, “Could it be strep throat?” Most sore throats aren’t a result of this bacterial infection, but if your child does have strep throat and it goes untreated, it can lead to serious complications.

At Penguin Pediatrics, our pediatrician Dr. Umesh Kodu sees many cases of sore throats, some of which are strep throat. Here’s what he says to look for when you suspect strep.

Symptoms of strep throat

If your child is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, strep throat may be to blame.

Sore throat

Of course a telltale sign of strep throat is a sore and scratchy throat. In some cases, the soreness is so severe that it’s painful to swallow. The pain usually comes on quickly.

Inflamed tonsils

If you ask your child to open their mouth wide and you look at the back of their throat, you can see their tonsils. Kids with strep throat have tonsils that look red and swollen. They’ll sometimes have white patches or streaks of pus on them, too, indicating infection.

Red spots

A further examination of your child’s mouth may reveal tiny red spots at the back of the roof of the mouth.

Swollen lymph nodes

Your lymph nodes are an important part of your immune system and are located throughout your body. You can feel them in your child’s neck when they have strep throat. They’ll be tender and swollen to the touch.


Strep throat causes an immune response that includes a relatively high fever. The fever can cause body aches, too. 

Other signs that your child’s sore throat is indeed caused by strep are headache, rash, and nausea and vomiting – especially in younger children.

What other factors should make me suspect strep throat?

Strep throat is most common in children, although it can affect anyone of any age. If you know someone your child comes into contact with has had strep throat and your child is exhibiting symptoms, it’s another pretty clear indication they have it.

Strep throat, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes -- also known as group A streptococcus, is highly contagious. The bacteria spreads through airborne droplets when a person nearby coughs or sneezes and also through shared utensils or drinks. Your child may even pick up the bacteria from a surface, such as a doorknob, and transfer it to their own eyes or mouth.

Strep throat most commonly occurs in winter and early spring when kids are in close contact with each other.

How can I be sure it’s strep throat?

The presence of one or more of the above symptoms isn’t a positive diagnosis of strep throat, and they could also indicate a viral infection or other illness. 

These symptoms do mean that your child should come in for an evaluation with Dr. Kodu. He can do a rapid strep test that involves a painless throat swab and in-office culture. He can tell you before you leave if your child has strep throat. If the strep test is positive, he prescribes antibiotics so your child can start healing right away.

If your child is complaining of a severe sore throat, it’s best to have them evaluated by Dr. Kodu at Penguin Pediatrics. Our team is intent on helping families in Ashburn and Stone Ridge, Virginia, stay healthy. Call today or book an appointment using the online tool.

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