Strep throat can be a very painful and contagious infection. While anyone can catch strep throat, it is most common among school-age children and teens between the ages of 5 and 15 years old, as the bacteria that causes strep throat spreads most often during the school year when large groups of children are in close quarters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How can you tell if your child has strep throat or is simply suffering from a sore throat? The CDC recommends checking for these common strep throat symptoms in children:
- Red and white patches in the throat
- A sore throat that lasts longer than 48 hours
- Tender or swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Red and enlarge tonsils
- Fever over 101°F that lasts longer than 48 hours
- Rash on the neck, also known as Scarlet Fever
If your child is experiencing these symptoms or any other cold-like symptoms in addition to the ones listed above, a doctor can test for the infection to give you a definitive answer. It’s important that you bring your child to his or her pediatrician if you suspect that he or she may have strep throat.
Before the Doctor’s Appointment
To prepare for your child’s doctor’s appointment, make sure that you have the answers to the following.
- What are your child’s symptoms, and how long has he or she had them?
- Has a friend or family member recently had strep throat?
- Does your child have any existing health problems and are they currently taking any medication?
Additionally, you might want to have some questions prepared to ask the doctor, such as:
- If it’s not strep throat, what is the most likely cause of these symptoms?
- How soon do you expect the symptoms to improve with treatment?
- When is it safe for my child to return to school?
- Is there anything that I can do at home to help treatment?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medication being prescribed?
At-Home Remedies to Soothe Ailments and Prevent Spreading the Infection
Antibiotics are the best way to treat strep throat. There are some things that you can do in addition to antibiotics prescribed by your child’s doctor to help soothe the symptoms of strep throat at home, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Encourage your child to wash his or her hands regularly. Make sure that his or her mouth is covered when sneezing or coughing.
- Gargling with warm salt water can help to soothe your child’s sore throat.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks plenty of water.
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) could help to ease symptoms, but before giving anything to your child, make sure that you consult with your child’s pediatrician.
- Put a humidifier in your child’s room.
- Feed your child “soothing” foods, including soups and broth, applesauce, soft fruits and popsicles.
- Keep your child away from any irritants that could exacerbate ailments, such as cigarette smoke, paint fumes and cleaning products.