03/21/2016 11:45 EDT | Updated 10/28/2016 01:28 EDT

Symptoms Of Strep Throat: The Signs To Look For In Your Kids

Be on the lookout for tell-tale symptoms of this painful (but common) illness.

We’ve all been there. Your kid comes home from school, complaining of a sore throat. He won’t eat dinner and he winces every time he swallows. When you ask him to say, “Ahhhh!” so you can take a look, you notice white patches all over his tonsils. Your parenting spidey-senses tingle: strep throat.

Millions of people in North America get strep throat each year. It’s characterized by the following:

• A sudden onset of severe throat pain, without any other symptoms of a cold

• Fever

• Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck

• Body aches

• Headache

• Tiny red spots on the soft palate of the mouth

• The aforementioned white patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils

Younger children especially can also experience nausea and vomiting.

Despite your deduction that strep throat may be the culprit of your child’s symptoms, other viral and bacterial infections may be to blame. He’ll need to see the doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Strep throat is highly contagious, spreading through shared food or drink, or when someone coughs or sneezes and releases droplets into the air. Your best defense is to avoid sharing cups or utensils, diligent hand washing, and reminding kids to cough or sneeze into their sleeves (if your kids are too young for this, you can bet you’re probably next – be prepared).

The good news is that strep throat can be treated with antibiotics that begin to work quickly, and you can treat pain with the recommended dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If symptoms don’t improve once you or your child is a couple of days into a prescription, contact your healthcare provider to prevent or treat possible (but rare) complications.

A note on the rapid strep test:

You used to have to wait for a throat swab to come back from the lab before receiving a strep throat diagnosis. While this test is still the best definitive way to identify the illness, doctors now have the rapid strep test at their disposal.

This instant in-office test identifies antigens in the throat that would lead to a call of strep. If the test is negative but the doctor still suspects strep as the cause of your symptoms, he or she will likely do the traditional throat swab as well.


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