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Sore Throat&Your Child

What causes sore throat?

Sore throat, or pharyngitis, is an infection of the throat and sometimes tonsils. It is most commonly caused by bacteria called Streptococcus, which then becomes known as "strep throat." Strep throat can cause severe complications such as rheumatic fever (a disease of the heart valves), so it is important to seek prompt treatment for your child.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Redness in the back of the throat
  • Fever (temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful swallowing
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache

How will I know if my child has strep throat?

Your child's doctor will perform a throat culture to see if the sore throat is being caused by Streptococcus bacteria. After a cotton swab is rubbed across the back of the throat, it will be sent to a lab for testing. If the results of the strep test are positive, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics for your child. Strep throat is spread through contact with saliva and mucus, and is still contagious until antibiotics have been taken for 24 hours.

How can I care for my child at home?

  • Give your child all medication as instructed by the doctor.
  • Give your child acetaminophen for fever. Do not give your child aspirin.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
  • Soft or cold foods, like pudding and milkshakes, may help ease throat pain.
  • Give children over 8 years warm salt water to gargle with (1/4 teaspoon of salt per glass of water).

Call the doctor if you child has:

  • A fever after taking two days of antibiotics
  • Increased throat pain
  • Earache
  • A hard time breathing
  • Skin rash
  • Excessive drooling
  • Cough
  • Severe headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dark urine, rash or chest pain (may occur 3 to 4 weeks later)

Questions to ask your child's doctor

  • For how long and at what times of the day should I give my child medication, if any?
  • How should I store the medication? In the refrigerator?
  • When will my child start to feel better?
  • Will I need to bring my child back for a follow-up visit?
  • Should I keep my child home from school or day care?
  • From which activities should I limit my child?
  • Are certain foods or liquids more helpful?
  • Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
  • Which over-the-counter medications/preparations are NOT recommended?
  • Which symptoms should I report to the doctor?