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This time of year we are seeing so many sore throats. The fancy name we use for sore throat is pharyngitis (“pharynx” is the Greek word for throat and “-itis” means inflammation, cool right?!). Sore throats can happen for many different reasons – viral infections, bacterial infections, allergies, post-nasal drip – to name just a few.

Causes of Sore Throat

Overall, viral infections are the most common cause of sudden onset sore throat. Sore throats due to viral infections usually are accompanied by cough, runny nose, hoarseness, or diarrhea. Some culprit viruses you may have heard of that commonly cause sore throat are adenovirus and mononucleosis.

When looking at just bacterial causes of sore throat, Group A Streptococcus (“Strep”) is the most common infection. About 15-30% of sore throats in kids are due to Strep infection. Usually Strep infections also have fever, headache, or belly pain along with the sore throat and do not have prominent cough, runny nose or sore throat.  If we think your child has a bacterial Strep infection based on the exam and symptoms, we will collect a throat swab (a big Q-tip rubbed in the back of the mouth) for testing. A rapid strep test can be done immediately; however, because this rapid test misses between 10-30% of strep cases, the swab is also used for a throat culture when the rapid test is negative. The throat culture is monitored for Strep growth for 48 hours. If the rapid test or the throat culture show evidence of Strep, your child will need to be treated with an antibiotic.

Sore Throat Treatment for Children

Whether a viral or bacterial infection is suspected, the way we treat the symptoms is the same.

  1. Lots of fluids keep your child hydrated.
  2. Ibuprofen eases the throat pain and makes swallowing more comfortable.
  3. Honey (straight off the spoon!) coats the back of the throat and helps with scratchiness. Absolutely NO honey if your little one is less than 1 year old.

If the sore throat is making it difficult breath, causing drooling, or increasing in pain for >3 days, let us know so we can see your child immediately.