Throat infections (sore throat and strep throat)

Throat infections (sore throat and strep throat)

Bacterial infection

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) to see if the infection is strep throat.

  • If your child has a positive rapid strep screen, an antibiotic will treat your child’s strep throat.
  • If your child has a negative rapid strep screen, a strep PCR test is done to confirm the results. You should get the test results within 24 hours. Please call the clinic if you have not been told of their results within 24 hours.


  • 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 they have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours

How to make your child feel more comfortable

  • 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 instructions.
  • Offer freezer treats, such as Popsicles® and ice cream, to ease sore throat pain.

When to call your health care provider

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

Take your child to an Emergency Department right away if they have trouble swallowing their saliva.

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 instructions.)
  • 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

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

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022