Sore throats can be caused by bacteria (i.e. strep), a virus, allergens, environmental irritants (such as cigarette smoke) and postnasal drip. The majority of sore throats are NOT caused by strep infection, but rather, a viral infection.
Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria (called ‘Group A strep”). It spreads through contact with droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. Strep throat is most common during the winter months and in children ages 5-15 years.
Common Symptoms of Strep Throat
- Sudden onset of sore throat
- Severe pain when swallowing
- Fever (101 F or above)
- Red, swollen tonsils
- Tiny red spots (petechiae) on the soft or hard palate (back of roof of mouth)
- Nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal pain
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Rough rash that feels like sandpaper
A viral sore throat does not require antibiotics. The presence of pink eye, runny nose, cough, diarrhea, and hoarseness usually indicates your child does NOT have strep throat.
A strep test (throat swab) is needed to tell if your child has strep throat. Just looking at their throat is not enough to make a diagnosis.
If the strep test is positive, a prescription for antibiotics will be necessary. The antibiotics will shorten the course of the illness but more importantly will prevent the development of rheumatic heart disease.