Sore Throat and Strep


Sore throats are one of the most common illnesses that affect children. There are many different causes of sore throat, the overwhelming majority of these being viruses. Common viral infections that may cause a sore throat include: influenza, parainfluenza, RSV, rhino virus, Coxsackie virus, adenovirus, herpes, EBV, CMV, and countless others. Typical symptoms that may be associated include fever, malaise, runny nose, cough, lymph node swelling, decreased appetite, and mild irritability. Unfortunately, nobody has found the cure for the common cold and scratchy throat.

Treatment options usually involve symptomatic care with ibuprofen, acetominophen, and other over–the–counter medications (please see specific OTC section). Luckily, severe symptoms tend to last less than 3–7 days, with residual complaints of cough and runny nose for up to 2 weeks.

Strep pharyngitis or “strep throat” is a different cause of sore throat that is important to be diagnosed. It is caused by a particular type of bacterium (Group A beta hemolytic streptococcus or Streptococcus pyogenes). This infection is most common in school aged children and adolescents, but it occasionally can be seen in the toddler age group. It is rarely seen below two years of age. Symptoms include a high fever, severe sore throat, difficulty swallowing, headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, and sometimes a rash. If your child suffers from any or all of these, in the setting of a sore throat, they should be checked for strep. Strep needs to be treated with antibiotics to prevent Rheumatic Fever. Before the age of penicillin, people developed severe skin, heart, and kidney problems as a result of untreated strep pharyngitis. We have two different tests that check for the strep bacteria. The diagnosis of strep throat needs to be confirmed with testing performed in a medical setting. Several different types of tests are available; your provider will explain what type of testing is used at your medical provider’s office. Strep throat is one of the only bacteria which is not becoming more resistant to our current antibiotics!! For that reason, most antibiotics, including penicillin and amoxicillin, are still very effective. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are also indicated for fever and pain control.

Important Differentiating Points:

  • Cold viruses: lower fever, runny nose, cough
  • Strep throat: pain with drinking or swallowing, high fever, headache, rash, abdominal pain

As always, please call the clinic with any further concerns.