boy looking sad When your child complains of a sore throat or pain while swallowing, you probably start wondering if it’s strep throat. 

Strep is a throat and tonsil infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, sometimes referred to as “group A strep.” This bacteria passes from person to person through sneezes and coughs, and it nestles into the nose and throat, causing acute pain and discomfort.

But a sore throat that seems to come on quickly and severe pain when swallowing aren’t the only signs of strep. And some children diagnosed with strep won’t even mention or experience those symptoms.

Other common symptoms of strep to look out for include:

  • A fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • A headache, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Patches of white on tonsils
  • Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A rash
  • Body aches

What to do if you think your child has strep

If you suspect your child has strep, call your pediatrician. And it’s important to find out: While a simple sore throat will usually heal on its own, your child will need an antibiotic to battle a strep throat infection.

You can’t diagnose strep through a visual examination alone. At the doctor’s, your child will receive a strep test, which is done by quickly swabbing the back of the throat to check for the presence of the streptococcus bacteria.

If your child does have strep, your pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics. Once your child begins treatment, he should feel better in a day or two.

Antibiotic treatment also helps contain the spread of infection. Children can usually return to school after being on antibiotics for 24 hours. And be sure to finish the entire course of the antibiotic, even if your child is feeling much better.

If your child is not getting better after 24 hours of treatment, call your pediatrician. Sometimes what first appears as a strep throat may be the beginning of infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” and requires further follow-up with your pediatrician.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD