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Sore Throats: Strep or Virus?
last updated:
Fri, 11/11/2011 12:55 PM

This time of year, sore throats are a common occurrence in children. We asked Pediatric Otolaryngologist Jerome Thompson, MD, what parents need to know about this symptom.

“Ninety percent of sore throats are viral and require no antibiotics,” said Thompson. Kids will usually recover from the virus within seven to 10 days.

However, if your child has strep throat, it needs to be treated. Common signs of strep throat include a fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, a severe strep throat and swollen tonsils with white patches on them, according to Thompson. Symptoms of strep can present differently depending on the child’s age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants may have only a low fever and a thickened or bloody nasal discharge.

“A missed strep throat can cause kidney or heart illnesses,” said Thompson.  If your child shows any of the symptoms of strep, make sure he or she is seen by a pediatrician.

To determine whether or not your child’s sore throat is a strep infection, doctors will perform a throat culture, using a cotton applicator to collect bacteria from the back of the throat and tonsils. Results are generally known within 24 hours. A prescribed antibiotic can treat a strep infection.

Other common causes of a sore throat include tonsillitis (swollen tonsils) and mononucleosis, which usually occurs in people ages 15 to 30.

The AAP says that most throat infections are contagious, so make sure your child stays award from people with symptoms of one, and if your child has a throat infection, keep him or her home. As always, hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of infection.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
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