Have you ever woken up feeling like you’ve swallowed broken glass? And, looking into your throat in the bathroom mirror, you notice white spots on the back of your throat or red spots on the roof of your mouth. If you have, then you probably have strep throat. Ouch!
What is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is an infection caused by bacteria. These are Group A Streptococcus bacteria (GAS) and cause about one-third of sore throat illnesses in children.
Who can get Strep throat?
Let’s just say that bacteria aren’t picky about who they infect, so yes, anyone can get strep throat. Having said this, strep throat is extremely uncommon in babies. This is because your young baby still has antibodies from their mommy protecting them. In addition, the tonsils are very tiny, making infection less likely.
Strep throat is particularly common in children and teenagers, with the age group 5 to 15 years being the most susceptible. This is because these children are often in close contact with one another in classroom situations. Strep peaks in winter and early spring when children are huddled together in closed environments. If any one of the children has a strep infection, then coughing or sneezing will send particles into the air or even onto surfaces which in turn infects other children. A child with strep may be contagious for up to three weeks if the illness goes untreated.
Should your older child develop strep throat, try to keep your baby away from the infected child for at least two days while the antibiotics take effect.
How will I know if my child has Strep Throat?
Small children who aren’t yet able to communicate won’t be able to tell you that their throat is sore. Instead, you may notice that they refuse even their favourite food, cry during feeding times, run a fever and are really fussy.
For older children, the symptoms may be more prominent. These can include:
- Sudden onset of a very sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Red swollen tonsils
- White patches on the tonsils
- Red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Swollen, painful glands in the neck
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in little children
- Loss of appetite
- Body rash. Along with strep throat, a child may develop a red rash that feels like sandpaper. This condition is called scarlet fever.
How will my doctor diagnose Strep Throat?
At the start of the article, I named some specific signs of strep throat, like the white puss on the back of the throat or red dots on the roof of the mouth. This may be enough for your doctor to advise the use of an antibiotic, but if your doctor wants to be absolutely sure, then your doctor may take a swab of your child’s throat.
Doing a swab isn’t painful but might cause your child to gag. It involves rubbing the tonsils with a swab which is then sent to the laboratory for culture. It usually takes about two days to get a result, which delays treatment. However, once the culture returns, there is a definite result and antibiotic sensitivity, which will tell your doctor exactly what treatment is required.
How is Strep Throat treated?
Strep throat should not be taken lightly, as it can lead to severe complications if left untreated. An antibiotic is required. If it is given within 48 hours of the onset, your child will most likely recover quickly and have less severe symptoms.
To help your child with the pain and fever associated with strep throat, you can give your child Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. However, please remember that Aspirin should be avoided. Administering Aspirin to children with flu-like symptoms may lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as Reye’s syndrome.
Strep Throat can arrive very quickly and cause lots of pain and discomfort for children. It is, of course, not of significant concern in very little babies. Having said this, parents need to be aware of this condition because if it goes untreated, it may lead to more severe complications. These complications include kidney inflation and rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever has the potential to damage the heart valves.
As with all illnesses, you must be observant of your child’s symptoms and condition. When treated early, strep throat will be sorted within 48 hours, and your child will bounce back to being that little bundle of mischief.
To protect your child and family from such infections, make sure that your family is up to date with their vaccinations. Protecting the family against viral infections will help safeguard against Group A Strep as well. Viral illnesses open the door to more serious bacterial infections by lowering one’s immune system. Vaccinations and good old personal hygiene go a long way in safeguarding our families from very painful Strep Throat and other bacterial infections.
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