Strep throat develops when the throat and tonsils are infected with a type of bacteria called group A Streptococcus, or group A strep. This type of bacteria can live in the nose and throat without making your child sick, but even when your child doesn’t have symptoms, they can spread the strep through coughing or sneezing. They can also transfer the bacteria if it’s on their hand and they touch a doorknob or other surface.
Any number of bacteria and viruses can cause a sore throat. In infants and children, viral infections are the most common. When a sore throat is due to a virus, there’s a good chance it will be accompanied by a cold. Allergies, postnasal drip, and dry air can also cause allergies.
When children have strep throat, they usually develop a sudden sore throat, but then additional symptoms develop over the next few days that aren’t seen in a common sore throat:
The basic symptoms of a strep throat tend to be different depending on the child’s age:
Infants: Children from two to 12 months old may only have a low fever and a thick or bloody nasal discharge.
Toddlers: One and two-year-olds have the same thick or bloody nasal discharge. They also have a fever, often don’t have an appetite, and usually have swollen glands. Your toddler may complain of tummy pain rather than a sore throat.
Children over the age of three: As children age, strep throat becomes more severe and makes them sicker. They can have a very painful throat, a fever over 102℉, swollen glands, and pus on their tonsils.
Antibiotics are used to treat strep throat. When treatment begins within 48 hours of the onset of the illness, antibiotics should reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms and lower the chance that the infection will spread to others. Getting the appropriate treatment as early as possible also reduces the risk of complications of untreated strep, such as rheumatic fever, ear infection, pneumonia, and abscessed tonsils.
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