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Sore Throats: Questions and Answers

Many children will develop sore throats throughout the year; however, the majority of sore throats are not caused by strep. Most sore throats are caused by viruses, which will go away on their own and do not respond to antibiotics. We hope that the facts listed below will help you to decide if and when your child should be seen in the office for strep testing.

Q: What should I know about strep throat?

  1. Strep throat is most common in the late fall, winter and early spring.
  2. Strep throat is most common in children aged 5-15; it is uncommon in children younger than 2 years.
  3. If your child has strep throat, his/her throat may look red; his/her tonsils may have white spots on them. However, some viruses also cause white spots and redness in the throat.
  4. While strep throat may be contagious, the majority of people who come in contact with it will not develop strep throat. Testing of siblings or classmates who do not have any symptoms is not recommended.
  5. Strep throat is commonly associated with fevers between 101-104 degrees. It is also commonly associated with pain when swallowing.
  6. Strep throat is not associated with congestion, cough or hoarseness. The presence of these symptoms makes a diagnosis of strep much less likely.

Q. My child has fever, red sore throat and no cold symptoms. What should I do?

Please call the office for an appointment. We will examine your child and swab his/her throat in order to do a “rapid strep” test. This test tells us within about five minutes whether your child has strep throat. New studies tell us that, in most cases, these tests are so accurate that follow-up cultures are not necessary. In some cases, your provider may use a second swab to be incubated overnight for another test called a culture.

Diagnosis of strep throat is not an emergency and some families will elect to wait until the symptoms have been present for a day or two before coming to the office.Dr. Hartman demonstrates how to perform a rapid strep test in this video.

Q. My child has a sore throat, cough, and congestion. What should I do?

Your child’s symptoms are not symptoms of strep throat. If your child is breathing comfortably, drinking fluids and urinating regularly, and feeling comfortable, you may elect to watch him/her at home. If your child is ill appearing or if you would like to have him/her seen, please call the office for an appointment.

Children with viral illnesses can usually be made comfortable with Tylenol/Motrin, rest, and lots of fluids. If your child’s throat is particularly sore, you may want to give him/her soup, popsicles, Jello, slush puppies, or herbal tea in order to hydrate and soothe the throat.

We hope that this information will be of help. Our goal is to provide prompt diagnosis and treatment to those children who do have strep throat, while minimizing unnecessary wait times and co-pays for those families whose children have mild viral illnesses.