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Strep Throat vs Sore Throat: March 10, 2011

Your child complains of a sore throat. How does a parent determine if it's just a minor irritation or something more serious? Dr. Eric Jones, a pediatrician on the medical staff of The Children's Hospital, says it can be complicated. "If you have a sore throat by itself, it could be lots of different things."

He advises parents to check for fevers, chills, or other acnes and pains. If there aren't any, he then suggests giving them a glass of water. If the symptoms go away within a few hours, then it's simply a sore throat. "If you have a sore throat that's getting worse and worse as a couple of days progress, or you have a fever with it, you feel really bad, you notice any glands swelling on the neck or on the tonsils that are on the neck or on the tonsils, that are really really large, those kind of things are worth taking a look."

Often times, pediatricians will examine the child and administer a throat culture to be on the safe side. "Most offices will actually test for strep throat because we find that just looking is wrong over half the time so you can be wrong in either direction just from a look so it's worth having a test for bacterial infections of the throat and strep."

Since strep throat is contagious, it's important to get a child on antibiotics sooner than later. "It's passed by secretions and droplets from sneezing, coughing, talking, just spraying normal mounts of fluid, not washing your hands afterward, that kind of thing."

If a child's strep throat is not treated, the infection can worsen and spread to other parts of the body.