Is it Strep? How you can tell.
The first few weeks of every new school year bring new classrooms, new kids...and new germs. It doesn't take long for the familiar chorus of sniffles, sneezes and coughs to start up. Complaints of “my throat hurts” aren't far behind. But when is that sore throat-cough combination just part of a cold and when is it strep throat? It can be hard to tell the difference.
Turns out most sore throats in kids under 5 -- about 75% of them, in fact -- are viral, meaning antibiotics won't do anything to help. In fact, prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection can actually be harmful, helping to create illnesses that are resistant to current medications. The Infectious Diseases Society of America is trying to reduce the number of over-prescribed antibiotics, and they've released new guidelines to help determine whether your child's sore throat is strep or not:
- Is your little one's sore throat accompanied by a cough, runny nose or hoarse voice? Then it's probably a virus.
- If your child has a high fever accompanied by a very sore throat, but no runny nose, cough or other cold-like symptoms, it may be strep.
- Strep is often associated with white sores on the tonsils, but these can be caused by viral infections as well.
- To be absolutely sure it's strep throat, your pediatrician should swab your child's throat and test it -- the rapid antigen strep test will provide a result in minutes.
Fortunately, if it is strep throat, it's very treatable with antibiotics. For viral infections, you can help treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Either way, hopefully your child will be on the mend in three to five days. Just in time for flu season!