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Strep Throat
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Is it strep throat or something else?

As kids head back to school, so do the germs, including those that cause sore throats.

Sore throats can indicate a variety of different conditions, from allergies and the common cold to strep. 

Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called group A Streptococcus and, if left untreated, can lead to serious illness, including rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation. The condition is more common among kids ages 5 to 15 and tends to flourish wherever people are in close contact like at school.

What are the signs and symptoms of strep throat?

Most sore throats are caused by viruses, which usually resolve on their own.

If your child is complaining of a sore throat, there are sure signs and symptoms you can look for that may indicate whether or not it is a strep infection or something else.

Symptom onsetSlowlyQuickly
Runny noseAlmost alwaysRarely
HoarsenessAlmost alwaysRarely
Difficulty swallowingOccasionallyAlmost always
Red, swollen tonsils and throatOccasionallyAlmost always
CoughAlmost alwaysRarely 
Pus in the back of the throatOccasionallyAlmost always
White spots on the tongueOccasionallyAlmost always
Swollen lymph nodes in the neckOccasionallyAlmost always
Fever, chills, and/or headacheRarely Almost always

Headache, stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting can also accompany strep throat, especially in children. 

A strep infection is highly contagious and is spread through respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. It usually takes two to five days for someone exposed to strep to become ill and a person with strep throat is contagious until they’ve been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

Although you can catch strep anytime during the year, the peak season is usually the winter or early spring. 

How can you prevent strep throat?

You can get strep throat more than once. There is no vaccine to protect against strep throat, there are simple things you can do to prevent strep throat and other infections.

  • Washing your hands – Proper handwashing with warm soap and water for 20 seconds is the best way to prevent infections. 
  • Covering your mouth – When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with your elbow or tissue to prevent transmission of respiratory droplets. 
  • Not sharing personal items – Never share eating utensils or dishes. Always wash dishes in warm, soapy water. 

Boosting your immune system will help ward off strep throat and other common ailments. Making sure your child gets enough rest, eats well, gets enough physical activity, and stays hydrated are keys to keeping kids healthy, especially with the start of school.

How is strep throat treated? 

If you suspect your child has a strep infection, they must receive a test to confirm the diagnosis. A rapid test involves swabbing the throat for the presence of the Streptococcus bacteria. If that comes back negative and a doctor still thinks it could be strep throat, they will perform a throat culture or collection of bacteria from the throat. Sometimes the symptoms of strep throat could be something else, which is why it’s important to receive a test.

The only way to treat strep throat is with antibiotics. Penicillin or amoxicillin are usually the types of antibiotics prescribed. Not only do antibiotics make you feel better by decreasing symptoms, but they also prevent the bacteria from spreading to others as well as serious complications like rheumatic fever.

Once someone is on antibiotics for strep throat, they start feeling better within a couple of days; however, it’s essential to finish all of the antibiotics prescribed. Children should stay home from school until they no longer have a fever AND they’ve been on an antibiotic for at least 12 hours.

While the only treatment for strep throat is antibiotics, there are several steps you can take at home to make your child feel more comfortable until symptoms subside. Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen can ease the pain while gargling with salt water, eating chicken soup, or sipping on warm water with lemon can soothe the tissues in the throat and provide some relief. Popsicles are a good choice, too.

Should your child need a strep throat test and diagnosis, Community First ER is here for you. No appointment is necessary, and walk-ins are accepted. You will experience little to no wait times to receive our personalized, compassionate, and concierge-level service. We treat both adults and pediatric patients.  Our board-certified physicians and registered nurses will treat your child like family, making their health a top priority. We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

About Community First ER 

Emergency health care is a critical resource. Our commitment is to provide a personal, transparent, and concierge-driven emergency health care experience to our community members. Locally owned and operated by health care providers and partners we trust, we strive to support and create meaningful relationships with those around us. We exist to put your health and wellness first. For more information, visit our website at  and engage with us on social media.