Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Child Health 411

with Ari Brown, MD

Educated parents are empowered parents! Get clear answers to your parenting questions from Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is It Strep?

looking inside the mouth of a child

iStockphoto

When your child has a sore throat, it’s important to find out if it’s strep throat or not. Ever wonder why? Strep (officially called Group A Streptococcus) is a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics. And, all the other sore throats caused by the virus of the week just need time and TLC to resolve.

Why does strep need to be treated? While many people clear the throat infection on their own, untreated strep can do some pretty serious damage in other body parts. Untreated strep can infect the heart, brain, and joints. That’s called rheumatic fever. And it’s why we need to know if that sore throat is due to strep bacteria.

Doctors have always known that strep prefers to infect school-aged kids instead of babies, toddlers or preschoolers. But a recent study in the journal, Pediatrics, confirmed this. About 37% of school-aged children who see their docs for a sore throat will have a Strep infection. But, only 24% of children under five years of age have Strep when they have a throat infection. Bottom line: little kids usually get viral sore throats, big kids are more likely to have Strep.

So, how do docs know when it’s strep throat (besides doing a strep test, of course).

Here are 10 things that make me think of strep:

  1. 5 years of age or older?
  2. Sore throat WITHOUT runny nose or cough?
  3. Sore throat WITH headache and/or stomachache?
  4. Sore throat and fine, pinpoint, sandpapery/rough feeling rash (called “scarlet fever”)?
  5. Sore throat and raised dots on the tongue (called “strawberry tongue”)?
  6. Sore throat and a persistent fever for more than a couple of days?
  7. (For girls) sore throat and a really red vaginal area?
  8. Sore throat and really red skin around his/her anus?
  9. Strep going around your child’s school, childcare, or your house (late fall, winter, spring)?
  10. A history of getting strep throat before?

If you think your child has strep, don’t panic. Even if your child has had the illness for a few days, antibiotics will do the trick to clear the infection and prevent rheumatic fever. Just make an appointment to see your child’s doctor!

What do you do when your child complains of a sore throat? Share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Ari Brown, MD at 8:39 am