Is there a worse way to wake up than with a sore throat? On the mild end of it, you could have slept with your mouth open and just need a few sips of water to get feeling better. But it’s the other end of the spectrum, with the possibility of the flu or strep throat, that can have you feeling a little twinge of anxiety with that throat soreness.
When your child has a sore throat, that anxiety can grow. Will they need to miss school? If they do have strep throat, do you need to worry about the rest of the family getting sick?
At Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics in Hoover, Alabama, we aim to take some of the stress away with same-day sick visits. These visits, which are always available for your sick child for nonemergency situations, can get them seen by our staff and on the road to recovery without having to wait for an open appointment slot.
In this blog, Nicolette Marak, MD, discusses what strep throat is, how it spreads, and what symptoms you should look for in your child.
Strep throat basics
Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. This type of bacteria is around throughout the year, but it thrives when people are indoors and in close contact. Because of this, strep throat often spreads through schools during the winter and early spring months.
Although painful, strep throat can be easily treated with antibiotics. Your child needs to complete their full schedule of antibiotics if they are diagnosed. Strep throat can easily recur if not fully treated, and long-term health effects from untreated strep can include rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, blood infections, and kidney disease.
Strep throat spreads through respiratory droplets. These droplets can fly through the air when someone coughs or sneezes, and they can infect others by way of shared food and drinks. Additionally, the droplets can linger on surfaces, such as doorknobs, and then reach the nose and throat after a person touches their face.
People exposed to the virus can be contagious for a few days before their symptoms appear, and they will remain contagious until 24 hours after their first antibiotic treatment. Strep throat is most common in children ages 5-15. The CDC estimates that 3 in 10 children with a sore throat have strep. Among adults, that number drops to 1 in 10.
Sore throat is the most common symptom, and it can often develop quickly. Other symptoms include:
- Painful swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils
- Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the mouth
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Body aches
Although symptoms can be a good indicator of strep throat, many illnesses carry the same general signs. A strep test, which detects group A strep antigens from a throat swab sample, is the best way to get a diagnosis if strep is suspected.