What are the Signs of Strep Throat in Children?

Alex Paul

The signs of strep throat in children are usually the same as those seen in adults and often mimic the symptoms of a regular cold and sore throat. Common symptoms include a fever, pain when swallowing, and vomiting. The tonsils of the child may also be inflamed as well as his or her glands. It’s important to keep in mind that strep throat in children has similar symptoms to a number of other problems, including viral infections.

A doctor will look for red or white spots at the back of the throat.
A doctor will look for red or white spots at the back of the throat.

Strep throat in children is often characterized by an extremely sore throat, which starts rapidly and can become severe. This may prevent the child from swallowing without pain. A doctor often performs laboratory tests and observes other symptoms in order to confirm the diagnosis before antibiotics are prescribed.

A child with strep throat may have swollen glands that can be felt on the child's neck.
A child with strep throat may have swollen glands that can be felt on the child's neck.

A fever that runs to a high temperature is another common sign of strep throat in children. Typically, fevers higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38.3 degrees Celsius) are more likely to indicate strep throat, while lower temperatures are often indicate viral infection. The fever may also be accompanied by swollen glands, which can be felt on certain parts of the child’s neck.

Strep throat is more common among children younger than 15 years old.
Strep throat is more common among children younger than 15 years old.

Children with strep throat often have swollen tonsils as well as red areas on the back of the throat. In some cases, there may be white spots at the back of the throat, which can spread to the tonsils. This doesn’t mean, however, that children who have had their tonsils removed cannot get the condition.

Swelling and redness in the back of the throat are common with strep throat.
Swelling and redness in the back of the throat are common with strep throat.

Other common signs of strep throat in children include headaches and nausea. Vomiting may also be present. Strep throat may not cause all of these symptoms, so a lack of certain signs does not always indicate the presence of a different illness.

A fever above 101 degrees is a common symptom of sore throat.
A fever above 101 degrees is a common symptom of sore throat.

A way to differentiate between a regular cold and strep throat is by looking at the symptoms that are not present. For example, strep throat doesn’t usually cause symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing. These symptoms are much more common with the common cold or flu. Coughs are also usually an indication that the condition isn’t strep throat.

Strep throat is more common amongst children younger than 15, but it is unusual for a child to get strep throat before the age of three. Usually, strep throat is more common during the winter months; during this time, children tend to spend more time inside and in close contact with other children, making the illness easier to spread.

Children should not take antibiotics for suspected strep throat without a physician's diagnosis.
Children should not take antibiotics for suspected strep throat without a physician's diagnosis.

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