WHAT IS STREP THROAT?
Strep throat is an infection of the throat caused by a bacteria named Group A Streptococcus.
It is helpful to try to distinguish between viral and bacterial causes of sore throat. Strep, which is bacterial, can be treated with antibiotics. Viral causes will resolve on their own and do not respond to antibiotics. Children under 3 years of age rarely get strep, unless they live with someone who has it.
Strep can cause:
- Pain or discomfort of the throat
- Red, swollen tonsils often covered with white patches or streaks of pus
- Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth or “strawberry” appearance of the tongue
- Headache, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
- Enlarged, tender lymph nodes
- Fine, red, sandpaper like rash (see below)
Cough, hoarseness, congestion and runny nose are usually NOT seen with strep throat, these symptoms point to a viral cause.
WHAT IS SCARLET FEVER?
- Caused by a substance made by some strains of Group A Streptococcus bacteria
- Red, raised rash that feels like sandpaper
- Starts on the head and neck and spreads to the body, arms and legs
- A person with scarlet fever may also have symptoms of strep throat
- People with strep throat will most often NOT have the scarlet fever rash.
HOW LONG DOES STREP THROAT & SCARLET FEVER LAST?
- Symptoms of strep throat should improve within 48 – 72 hours after your child starts taking an antibiotic
- The rash from scarlet fever should improve within 2 – 5 days
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR STREP THROAT & SCARLET FEVER?
- Antibiotics are the primary treatment:
- Most children will be prescribed an antibiotic to take by mouth
- If your child will not take a medication by mouth, an injection can be given
- Although most children will get better without antibiotics, the medication helps reduce risk of complications and keeps the infection from spreading to others
- For fever or pain, give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) as directed on package instructions or see our website for dosing. Do not give aspirin products.
- Give your child plenty of liquids such as water or Pedialyte in small amounts often.
- Give soft foods that are easy to swallow such as applesauce, mashed potatoes, hot cereal or eggs. It is okay if your child does not want to eat much, drinking liquids is more important.
- To soothe your child’s sore throat:
- Warm fluids such as chicken broth
- Cold popsicles or apple juice
- Honey 1 – 2 teaspoons, mixed with lemon/water or by itself, 6 – 8 times per day
- If your child can gargle without swallowing, mix ½ teaspoon table salt in 8 ounces water. Have your child gargle then spit out the mixture 2 – 3 times a day.
- Your child can generally return to school or daycare after 24 hours of starting antibiotics, being fever free, and feeling well.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR?
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
- Your child starts drooling, cannot talk or has great trouble swallowing
- Your child is acting very sick
Call during office hours if:
- Fever greater than 101°F lasts more than 48 hours after starting antibiotics
- Sore throat lasts more than 72 hours after starting antibiotics
- You have any other concerns
- Coke colored urine several weeks after having strep