Sore throat: Is it strep or something else?

It's a common complaint, "Mom, my throat hurts." The quandary for many parents is why does it hurt? Is it a virus or something more? For some infections, like strep throat, that question can be difficult to determine without help.

"Group A streptococcus, or strep throat, is the cause of a in about 3 out of every 10 children and it's more common in late fall and early spring," said Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "The difficult part is that strep doesn't always present in the same way and some strep carriers are asymptomatic."

Many schools are seeing outbreaks of strep throat with some students being infected several times - as many as three separate infections in less than two months.

"I have seen kids who have improved after taking the full course of antibiotic only to be infected again. You don't become immune to this infection so you can get it over and over again," Dlugopolski said. "It is extremely important for parents to keep their children home when they are sick. If they are diagnosed with strep, a child needs to be on an antibiotic and without a fever for 24 hours before going back to school," Dlugopolski said.

Though it's difficult to discern strep throat in all ages, it's hardest in children who are ages 5 and younger since they are not as capable of describing their symptoms.

"I had a family that was in and out of my office with strep throat for months and we couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Finally, they took the family dog to the vet and found out he had strep and they were getting it from him. When trying to find out the source of strep, don't leave any rock unturned," Dlugopolski said.

  • Fever more than 101 degrees F
  • Severe sore throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes
  • White or yellow spots on the back of a bright red throat

Other possible symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Belly pain
  • Vomiting
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Body aches
  • Red skin rash

"Rarely do children get all these symptoms, but one good indicator that may have strep is to determine if they have come in contact with someone with strep. But the only way to know for sure is to make an appointment with your doctor who can run a simple test in the office to determine if the infection is viral or ," Dluglopolski said. "There is a small chance of strep leading to , which infects the heart valves and can cause kidney damage so take it seriously and talk to your doctor.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New strep throat guidelines tackle antibiotic resistance

Sep 10, 2012

(HealthDay)—Doctors need to accurately diagnose and treat strep throat in order to avoid inappropriate use of antibiotics that can lead to drug-resistant bacteria, according to updated guidelines from the ...

Don't be quick to toss your toothbrush after a sore throat

May 04, 2013

Word on the street has it you should replace your toothbrush after suffering from a cold, the flu or a bout of strep throat. That may not be necessary—at least when it comes to sore throats, according to a study to be presented ...

How to tell if your child is too sick for school: expert

Jan 20, 2013

(HealthDay)—Children often get colds, but when they are not feeling well enough to participate in their normal daily activities or not alert enough to learn or play, they are too sick to go to school, an ...

Recommended for you

Ebola kills 31 people in DR Congo: WHO

1 hour ago

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 31 people and the epidemic remains contained in a remote northwestern region, UN the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

Dengue fever strikes models in Japan

3 hours ago

A worsening outbreak of dengue fever in Japan has claimed its first celebrities—two young models sent on assignment to the Tokyo park believed to be its source.

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test

3 hours ago

Japanese researchers said Tuesday they had developed a new method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes, with technology that could allow doctors to quickly diagnose infection.

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

16 hours ago

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

Cerebral palsy may be hereditary

22 hours ago

Cerebral palsy is a neurological developmental disorder which follows an injury to the immature brain before, during or after birth. The resulting condition affects the child's ability to move and in some ...

User comments