The largest proportion of children (15-40%) and adolescents (30-60%) with sore throat have a viral infection. About 8-30% of children and 5-9% of teenagers with fever and throat inflammation have a strep infection. Other bacteria infrequently cause throat infection. Particularly among teenagers, the differential diagnosis includes other species of streptococci (group C and group G) and even the possibility of gonococci (gonorrhea germ) causing a sore throat. Other bacteria include Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Arcanobacterium haemolyticum as causes of symptomatic sore throat.

Your child can be treated in the emergency department with a one-time shot of penicillin. This takes the place of 10 days of medicine by mouth. Your child may be prescribed an antibiotic by mouth. Your child must take the medicine for 10 days, even if he or she feels much better in a day or two. If your child does not take all of the medicine exactly as instructed by the doctor, he or she may develop permanent damage to the heart, kidneys or joints.

Strep throat is very contagious. Other members of the family can catch it from your child. To keep from spreading germs: Do not share drinking cups or utensils with your child, make sure everyone in the house washes his or her hands often going back to school or daycare, if your child’s temperature is normal, he or she may return to school or daycare 24 hours after starting the medicine, after 24 hours of starting treatment, your child’s strep throat is no longer contagious.

If your child has a fever or pain from the sore throat, try giving acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids such as juice, soda and fruit drinks. Soft foods like applesauce, pudding and mashed potatoes may be less irritating to the throat. Popsicles or cold liquids may help ease the pain from the sore throat. If your child is older than 5 years, he or she can gargle with warm salt water. Put ½ teaspoons of salt in 1 cup of warm water. Have your child gargle with it and spit it out. Do not swallow the salt water.

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