Sore throats are very common and the cause is not always obvious. Usually sore throats are caused by viral or bacterial infections that clear up without treatment within a few days.
Some of the causes of a sore throat include:
- a cold or the flu- you may also observe a blocked or runny nose, a cough, a fever, a headache and feel run down.
- laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box)- which is often accompanied by a dry hoarse cough
- tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils)- where red or spotty tonsils, and discomfort swallowing becomes a symptom
- glandular fever- where the glands in the neck become swollen, and a high temperature develops
- strep throat (see below)
Sore throats may also be caused by something irritating the throat, for example cigarette smoke, gastro-oesophageal reflux (where acid leaks up from the stomach) or allergies.
Various measures will help soothe a sore throat, these include:
- taking paracetamol, or ibuprofen should paracetamol not be sufficient; remember, children under 16 should never take aspirin
- drinking plenty of cool or warm fluids, depending on personal preference
- eating soft foods
- avoiding smoky places or throat irritants
- gargling with a homemade mouthwash of warm, salty water (this will only be appropriate for older children that understand how to gargle and spit out the mouthwash, not to swallow it)
It is not usually necessary to get medical advice for a sore throat, however it would be advisable to seek guidance from a GP if:
- a child’s symptoms are severe
- symptoms do not appear to be improving after a week
- a child appears to suffer from sore throats frequently
- a child has a weakened immune system- for example is taking chemotherapy
Streptococcal infections are any type of infection caused by the streptococcus (“strep”) group of bacteria. Group A strep are the most common form of infection that affects children.
The infection is spread via droplets from coughs or sneezes of someone who has the infection, or through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated object.
Most streptococcal infections can be treated simply with antibiotics, and children with a minor strep A infection will make a full recovery and experience no long-term problems. There is a very small risk the infection could spread further into the body and become an invasive infection, creating complications such as pneumonia or sepsis (an infection of the blood) if left untreated. It is therefore important to seek immediate medical advice if you think your child may have an invasive strep A infection, as they will need to be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.