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Young boy opening his mouth for a strep test

Is It Strep?

By Dr. Peter Grosso, Nansemond Pediatrics

Three words from your child – “my throat hurts” – can immediately launch three questions in your head.

Is it a cold? Allergies? Strep throat?

Sore throats caused by viruses and some allergy triggers often get better with time, but there’s more urgency with strep throat, because it’s a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

For strep, antibiotics not only reduce pain and complications in your child, but also quicken recovery. Plus, they help keep the illness from spreading to others. Here’s some advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

How can you tell it might be strep?

  • The sore throat comes on quickly.
  • It’s painful for the child to swallow.
  • There’s usually a fever.
  • Tonsils are red and swollen, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus.
  • The roof of the mouth has tiny red spots.
  • Lymph nodes in the front of the neck are swollen.
  • In some cases, strep causes headaches, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and a rash known as “scarlet fever.”
  • Typically, children with strep throat don’t have a cough, runny nose, or hoarseness, which are more common with colds and the flu.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Your child’s healthcare provider can take a throat swab and do a “rapid strep test” in the office to determine whether or not it’s strep. If it is, antibiotics are prescribed, and your child should start feeling better a day or two after starting the medicine. Your child should stay home until they no longer have a fever and have taken the antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Antibiotics will not help a sore throat due to a virus or allergies.

Not better in 48 hours? Call your doctor’s office.

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About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.