Sore throats (pharyngitis) are a very common complaint in childhood. They are almost never an emergency. About 90% are due to viruses and only about 10% are due to the strep bacteria. If your child has a bad cold with a runny nose, it is usual to get a sore throat from post-nasal drip. Viral infections can mimic strep throat in every way. Viruses generally last 3-5 days and are very uncomfortable. They do not respond to antibiotics. With the exception of laryngitis and croup, which we can diagnose from the symptoms and are almost always viral, a throat swab for a rapid test or culture is the ONLY way to distinguish between the two. It is not appropriate to give antibiotics without this test.
Treat your child’s sore throat with fluids, rest and acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). He needs to be seen in the office if he is very sick with a fever and very red, sore throat, or if he is not feeling better in 24-48 hours. Strep throat infections require antibiotics to prevent rare complications. Penicillin or amoxicillin are the first choice of antibiotics for this infection. Your child is no longer contagious 24 hours after starting the antibiotic. He may return to school and activities when the fever is gone, and he feels better, usually within 48 hours.
Call Our Office immediately if:
- your child is drooling or having great difficulty swallowing.
- your child is acting very sick.
Call Our Office during regular hours if:
- the fever lasts more than 3 days.
- your child has had a moderate or very sore throat for more than 24 hours.