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April 22, 2024

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Is it Strep Throat … Again?

While a sore throat does not usually equal strep throat (most sore throats are viral) if your child has recurring strep, you may need to take action.

School means lots of kids are around your child. This also means his exposure to many more germs rises. This makes it easy for him to catch some sort of illness — such as strep throat. However, your question is how many times can he contract strep throat before it becomes a bigger concern? First, it's important to know that the most common cause of a sore throat is a virus that will resolve on its own. Strep throat differs in that it is an infection in the throat cause by a bacteria (Group A Streptococcus).

According to James Godfrey, M.D., of Green Hills Pediatric Associates, strep throat is a very contagious, very common illness in children, especially school-aged children — but NOT as common as a viral sore throat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that when children younger than 3 get strep throat, symptoms tend to be milder than in older children. "Infants with a streptococcal infection may have a low fever and thickened nasal discharge," the AAP writes on its website. "Toddlers may have a fever, irritability, a decreased appetite, and in some cases, swollen glands in the neck." The AAP also says that kids who catch the infection become ill two to five days after being exposed to bacteria.

A sore throat, nausea and fever may be just a few symptoms, and, according to Godfrey, there are other possible complications that can arise from strep throat such as more severe throat infections, obstructive tonsillar enlargement, kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease. However, Godfrey says these can likely be avoided with prompt, appropriate medical therapy — oral or injectable antibiotic.

Considerations for Tonsillectomy

"It's not uncommon for a child to have multiple bouts of strep throat during childhood since it is so easily transmitted from one person to another," says Godfrey. "However, children with recurrent or persistent bouts of it can often benefit from a tonsillectomy, which is a surgical removal of the tonsils." But, how do you know when it's time to have such a procedure done?

Godfrey says there are several indications your child may need to have a tonsillectomy. Some general considerations include:

  • Seven episodes of strep throat in one year
  • Five episodes of strep throat per year for two consecutive years
  • Three episodes of strep throat per year for three consecutive years



Help for Strep

  • Sleep – Lots of it. 
  • Soft, Smooth Foods – Mashed potatoes, jello, popsicles.
  • Hydrate – Drink plenty of fluids including water, Gatorade, and similar drinks — less sugar is better. 
  • Run a Humidifier – Cool mist humidifiers keep moisture in the air and soothe the soreness in the throat.

Prevent Strep

  • Washing your little one's hands; insist older children wash their hands several times a day.
  • Cover coughs with the elbow or a tissue; throw tissues away immediately.
  • Wipe all frequently used surfaces with antibacterial wipes.
  • Replace or boil infected toothbrushes.
  • Keep sick kids at home until they are well.

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