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Sore vs Strep Throat

Your little one is clutching at their throat and having trouble swallowing. Is this a mild sore throat that will go away on its own, or a strep infection that needs antibiotics? Learn about red flag symptoms and when it’s time to take your child to the doctor. Viruses, bacteria, allergens, and environmental factors can all cause sore throat symptoms in children.

Viral Sore Throat

A virus is the most common culprit for a sore throat, and is often accompanied by cold symptoms. If your child’s sore throat is accompanied by a runny nose, coughing, hoarseness, and/or conjunctivitis (pink eye), it’s most likely due to a viral infection. Viruses generally clear up on their own within 7-10 days.

Bacterial Strep Throat

About one third of sore throats are strep throat. Strep throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and generally requires antibiotic treatment. The infection is extremely contagious and common among school-aged children. General symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • red and swollen tonsils
  • painful or swollen neck glands
  • red and white patches in the throat
  • trouble swallowing
  • a headache
  • lower stomach pain
  • general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • rash

Symptoms of strep throat can also vary depending on a child’s age:

  • Infants: Low Fever, Thickened or bloody nasal discharge.
  • Toddlers: Thickened or bloody nasal discharge with a fever, Cranky or Fussy, No appetite, Swollen glands in the neck, May complain of tummy pain
  • Children age 3+: Extremely painful throat, Fever over 102 degrees F, Swollen glands in the neck, Pus on the tonsils.

When To See a Doctor for Sore Throat Symptoms

Seek medical care if your child:

  • has difficulty swallowing
  • isn’t drinking liquids
  • is drooling
  • feels very tired
  • has pus in the back of the throat
  • has a sore throat that lasts longer than a few days

PedsNow is available nights and weekends to diagnose sore throat symptoms and provide overall expert pediatric care. Just walk into our Hinesville clinic when your family needs trusted and affordable medical treatment. We can evaluate your child and provide the proper treatment and medication to help them feel better.