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Throat infections (sore throat and strep throat)

Bacterial infection

Tip

If, for any reason, there is left-over medicine, throw it away.

The streptococcus bacteria causes strep throat. Symptoms of strep throat include very sore throat, fever, swollen glands or upset stomach. White spots may appear on your child’s throat.

Your health care provider can give your child a rapid strep screen (it takes about 30 minutes) or throat culture to see if the infection is strep throat. An antibiotic will cure your child’s strep throat.

  • If your child is prescribed antibiotics:
    • give all the medicine as directed
    • get your child a new toothbrush to start using two days after starting the antibiotics
    • keep your child out of school or daycare until she has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours
  • Give your child plenty of liquids.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Offer your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) for fever or discomfort if needed. Follow your health care provider’s or the package directions.
  • Offer freezer treats, such as Popsicles® and ice cream, to ease sore throat pain.
  • If your child had a throat culture you should receive the results within three days. Please call the clinic if you have not been told of her results after three days.

Important

Take your child to an Emergency Department right away if she has trouble swallowing her saliva.

Call your child’s health care provider if your child:

  • gets new symptoms you are worried about
  • has little energy
  • is hard to wake up
  • doesn’t want to drink liquids
  • has little or lack of urine
  • has a fever or throat pain that doesn’t improve in three days

Viral infection

Most sore throats are caused by viruses. With a sore throat, your child may have a fever and swollen neck glands. Your child’s tonsils may be covered with white spots. Antibiotics will not help a viral throat infection. The virus must run its course. Talk with your health care provider about over-the-counter medicines that may help your child’s symptoms.

How to soothe a sore throat

To soothe a viral sore throat, have your child:

  • use throat lozenges, if age-appropriate
  • take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) (Follow your health care provider's or the package directions.)
  • drink lots of liquids
  • gargle with salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water) three times a day, if age-appropriate

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic