Streptococcal pharyngitis or streptococcal tonsillitis, also referred as strep throat, is a medical condition characterized by pharyngitis which is caused by group A streptococcal infection. It affects the pharynx, tonsils and in some cases the larynx. It is actually the cause of 37% of sore throat cases among children. What are the symptoms of strep throat in toddlers?
The main cause of strep throat is group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus or GAS. Other bacteria could also cause pharyngitis such as non group A beta-hemolytic streptococci and fusobacterium. It is spread by direct contact with the infected person. This is the reason why strep throat easily affects children during school days. Studies have shown that dried bacteria in the air could not cause strep throat but moist bacteria in toothbrushes could survive until fifteen days thus sharing of toothbrushes is highly discouraged.
Symptoms associated with strep throat are as follows: sore throat without cold symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose), difficulty in swallowing, fever (over 101 F), swollen lymph nodes, whitish or yellowish spots on the throat or tonsils, red spots of the soft palate, swollen tonsils, headache, and muscle pains.
The gold standard in diagnosing strep throat is throat culture. Rapid strep test or rapid antigen detection testing (RADT) could also be used. Throat culture is more sensitive (90-95%) than RADT (70%) but the advantage of RADT is that it is a lot quicker. These diagnostic tools are actually not needed since strep throat could actually be diagnosed basing on the symptoms alone.
Treatment for strep throat includes antibiotic therapy and analgesics. Antibiotic lessens the course of the disease by 16 hours and it greatly reduces the risk of complications such as retropharyngeal abscess and rheumatic fever. Antibiotics are best given within nine days after the onset of above symptoms.
In the United States, penicillin V is used to treat strep throat because of its safety, effectiveness and cost. In Europe, amoxicillin is popularly used. In countries with high cases of rheumatic fever like India, benzathine penicillin G is given intra muscularly. In cases of penicillin allergies, Erythromycin and macrolides could be used.
Analgesics such as paracetamol and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could help decrease the pain associated with strep throat. Aspirin may be used in adults but not in children because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
When symptoms of strep throat are observed to your toddler, better have him/her checked by a physician. Do not self medicate your child. You might be giving the wrong drug with wrong dosage. In addition to that, try to separate and wash well the items used by your toddler so to prevent the spread of the bacteria.
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