When your child develops a sore throat, you may not be sure how serious the condition is and whether or not it is due to something common or it is something more serious, such as strep or tonsillitis. One of the most common reasons why a child may develop a sore throat would be a cold.
A sore throat with a cold
When a child is developing a common cold, they will likely experience a sore throat first. This can last a day or two and then go away, leading into cold symptoms like a runny nose, headache, and cough. A sore throat caused by a cold is usually not of great concern and can be treated with cold medications and pain relievers.
Other common causes of a sore throat can include:
- Dry Air
- Pollutants in the air
However, when a sore throat is something more, it may be caused by an infection.
What is strep throat?
Strep is a condition that is spread through bacteria called streptococcus. It can be spread through secretions from the nose as well as saliva from someone who is sick. This condition is most common in children under the age of 15, but anyone can get strep. Strep throat can then progress to the more serious rheumatic fever. Although this serious condition is rare, strep throat should still be treated with the appropriate antibiotics.
Symptoms of strep include:
- Severe sore throat that comes on suddenly
- Loss of appetite due to severe throat pain
- White spots and red streaks on the back of the throat
Strep doesn’t accompany common cold symptoms, such as runny nose, stuffiness, and coughing. Generally, common colds do not include fever, but strep does. So, if your child has no other symptoms besides severe throat pain, then it is time to see a doctor.
Thanks to antibiotics, the symptoms of strep usually clear up within 24 hours of taking medication. However, it is important that you ensure your child takes the full course of antibiotics to minimise the rise of the strep coming back.
Finally, let’s consider tonsillitis, which can mimic some of the same signs as strep and a common sore throat.
What is tonsillitis?
This is an infection that occurs in the tonsils and it can be very painful, requiring antibiotics to heal up properly. Often, if children have chronic tonsillitis, then a doctor will recommend removing the tonsils to keep the infection from occurring again.
Symptoms of tonsillitis include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Swollen and red tonsils with white spots on them
- Bad breath
In some cases, the child’s voice may even change somewhat because the swollen tonsils are actually blocking the throat. Tonsillitis can only be treated with antibiotics if it is bacterial. If it is a viral infection, then the illness will need to run its course. Children who have tonsillitis will not exhibit other common cold symptoms
To treat tonsillitis, you will need to take your child to the doctor. In the meantime, ensure they are drinking plenty of fluids and have them avoid any foods that are crunchy or spicy since both of these can worsen the pain. Give the child foods like soup, milk shakes, ice cream, gelatin, and other smooth foods that will soothe the throat.
Throat pain can be hard to manage in children since the child may not be able to tell you exactly what it feels like. If the sore throat is associated with the common cold, then it should clear up on its own very quickly. However, if tonsillitis or strep is suspected, you will need to take your child to the doctor.
If you have questions about throat problems in children, contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you see an ear nose throat surgeon.