Strep Throat for School-Goers

By: Avani Ingley, MD

Unfortunately, strep throat is most common in school-age children. Up to one-third of children with sore throats in the winter will test positive for strep throat. The infection is easily spread through sneezing, coughing, or by touching toys or surfaces that have been touched by an infected child. What’s worse, strep throat can cause a child to be contagious for up to 3 weeks if left untreated.

Many parents often wonder how to tell the difference between a sore throat and an actual strep throat infection. A child with strep throat can experience red and white patches in the throat, tender or swollen glands in the neck, enlarged tonsils, fever (typically higher than 101°), loss of appetite, abdominal pain, headache, and nausea. If two or more of these symptoms occur, the child should see a primary care physician. A rapid strep test or throat swab may be required. If strep throat is diagnosed, then antibiotics will be prescribed. Symptoms typically improve within 24-48 hours of starting medications. Children can typically return to school once fevers are gone, they are feeling well, and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. It is important to stress hand washing and good cough etiquette to prevent the spread of infection. If the infections become frequent or symptoms do not resolve with antibiotics, specifically the swelling of the tonsils and lymph nodes, it is time to visit an ENT physician. A tonsillectomy, or removal of the tonsils, may be necessary. For more information, visit http://nw-ent.com/pediatric-ent/.