Throat Infections

Throat Infections in Children

Most throat infections (more than two thirds) are caused by viruses, and are associated with fever, headache, stomachache, and swollen glands under the jaw.

The same symptoms can be caused by strep throat (bacterial infection of the throat due to streptococcus), which can and should be treated with antibiotics. Usually, strep throat is not accompanied by runny nose, congestion, cough or pink eye symptoms, and presence of these may help you distinguish viral throat infections from strep.

A throat swab is necessary to find out definitively whether your child’s sore throat is caused by strep or a virus. If it is positive for strep, an antibiotic is necessary.

A person with strep throat is contagious only for the first 24 hours he is on antibiotics. After that 24-hour mark, the patient’s toothbrush should be discarded so he does not reinfect himself. After 24 hours of antibiotics the patient may return to childcare, school, work, or any other activity.  In 2018, the AAP updated their guidelines to say that kids can return to school after 12 hours of antibiotics if fever and symptom free. However, many schools have still not changed their return guidelines.

Although children with strep throat often start to feel like themselves within 48 hours of antibiotics, completing the full course of antibiotics as prescribed is essential to preventing a condition called Rheumatic Fever, which damages the heart.

If the throat swab is negative for strep, symptom control is all that is necessary until your child’s body fights off the virus. The symptoms often last up to a week but may last as many as two weeks.

Whether the sore throat is from a virus or strep, Tylenol may be given for fever, aches and pains. Honey, cold fluids, popsicles and ice cream are good to soothe the throat. In older children, gargling with warm salt water is often helpful.

Call the office at (804) 282-4205 if your child is having a hard time swallowing due to pain, or otherwise.