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Do You Think Your Child Has Strep Throat? What You Need to Know

Jun 29, 2022

Pediatric Care

strep throat what you need to know

Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection that causes pain and inflammation in the throat. It affects people of all ages, but children are more likely to get strep throat. Though strep throat is not life-threatening, leaving it untreated can cause complications, such as scarlet fever, kidney disease, sinus infections, rheumatic fever, ear infections, and post-streptococcal reactive arthritis.

Knowing its causes, symptoms, and risk factors will help you treat it on time. Continue reading to learn more.

What Causes a Strep Throat?

Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, which live in your throat and nose. Infected people can spread the bacteria to others by sneezing, coughing, talking, and sharing utensils.

Common Symptoms of Strep Throat

The infected person won’t develop any symptoms immediately after they contract the bacteria. It will take 2-5 days after initial exposure to begin experiencing symptoms. However, some people don’t develop any symptoms at all. Compared to asymptomatic people, those experiencing symptoms of strep throat can easily spread the infection.

Signs of strep throat are:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • A sudden, severe sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
  • Headache
  • Red and swollen tonsils with streaks of pus or white patches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Small, red spots on the roof of the mouth

Why Are Children More Likely to Get Strep Throat?

Strep throat is more common in children between 5 and 15 years old, while it is rare in children younger than 3 years.  It easily spreads when children are in close contact spaces, such as schools and daycare centers.

Adults who are at increased risk of being infected with strep throat include:

  • Those in frequent contact with children
  • Parents of school-going children

How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your symptoms and conduct a physical exam. If they suspect strep throat, they will perform a rapid strep test. This test includes swabbing the throat and testing the swab sample for the presence of strep A bacteria. If the test is positive, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

Your doctor may order a throat culture if the swab test is negative, but they will still suspect strep throat. This test involves rubbing the sterile swab on the back of the throat and tonsils and culturing the swab sample in the laboratory. Though it can take 2-3 days, a throat culture can detect the presence of bacteria that a rapid swab test misses.

How Can You Differentiate Strep Throat from a Sore Throat?

A sore throat (causing pain, scratchiness, or irritation in the throat) develops gradually, while strep throat often develops suddenly and severely. If you have strep throat, your throat may appear bright red with white or yellow patches and you may have a high fever (above 101 degrees) and swollen lymph nodes and tonsils. A sore throat won’t cause such symptoms.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

The following conditions can cause a sore throat:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Allergies
  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Smoke, irritants, and chemicals
  • Dry air
  • Throat injury
  • Strep throat
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

How to Treat Strep Throat

Strep throat treatment regimen usually includes antibiotics, such as penicillin and amoxicillin. Your doctor may also advise you to practice good hygiene to avoid infecting others, which includes:

  • Washing your hands regularly with the soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
  • Not sharing utensils with others

What to Expect During Recovery

You may be able to return to normal activities after 24 hours of treatment (taking antibiotics). Also, you should start feeling better after a couple of days of beginning treatment for strep throat. Otherwise, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

When Do You Need to Visit an Urgent Care Center for a Sore Throat and Strep Throat?

Strep throat is painful and highly contagious, but it does not often require an ER visit. However, some patients who develop serious and complicated symptoms should seek medical intervention at an urgent care to prevent further aggravation of the condition.

Visit our urgent care facility for a sore throat if you or your child develops the following signs:

  • A fever above 101 degrees
  • Pus on the tonsils
  • Severe pain in the throat while eating, talking, or sleeping
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Difficulty turning your head

Visit our urgent care if you are experiencing the following symptoms of strep throat:

  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen and red tonsils
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache

If you are looking for pediatric urgent care near you to treat your child’s strep throat, contact us today at Metro Urgent Care. Our pediatric healthcare providers will offer personalized treatment and medical assistance to restore your child’s health while preventing further complications.

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