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How do I Recognize Strep Throat in Babies?

By Amanda Dean
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Strep throat typically occurs in school-aged children and rarely in very young children. The condition can be difficult to recognize in babies because the infant can not use language to complain of symptoms. A baby with this infection may be abnormally irritable, have a low-grade fever, or show other signs of infection. If you suspect strep throat, you should consult a pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment.

Subtle behavioral changes occur when babies are infected with the strep bacteria. Your baby may refuse to breastfeed or show a decreased appetite if this infection is present. The baby may be fussier than usual and more difficult to soothe. Strep throat in babies may cause sleeplessness or abnormal waking.

You may also notice signs of infection or distress in the tonsils if your baby is infected with strep throat. Strep throat in babies can cause fevers between 99 degrees Fahrenheit and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Your baby may have a runny nose or a cough. The baby's tonsils may be swollen or show a pus-like discharge. Strep throat is sometimes accompanied by a rash on the baby's chest or limbs.

Many of these symptoms occur in other ailments. Only a throat culture or rapid strep test conducted by a pediatrician can accurately diagnose strep throat in babies. Your pediatrician may prescribe a course of antibiotics to eliminate the infection. The doctor should let you know if you can use fever-reducers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen along with the prescription. You can help relieve a sore throat by giving the baby cool liquids or a popsicle to suck on, but never give a baby a lozenge due to choking hazards.

It is more likely that strep is the culprit for the baby's symptoms at times of high exposure to the bacteria. Incidences of strep throat are more common in the fall than any other time of the year. As with any contagious illness, strep throat in babies is often acquired from sick parents or siblings. Be sure to have other children in the household tested for the illness if strep throat is found in an infant.

Strep throat rarely occurs in children under the age of 3. Most young children are protected from this condition because of immunity transfer from the mother prior to birth or during breastfeeding. Strep throat in babies becomes more common after the first year of life when the mother's immunity to the bacteria is no longer effective.

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Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On Jul 19, 2013

@Fa5t3r - At least the baby would be given some sore throat remedies until the doctor could figure out what the cause of the illness was. Even if a throat isn't showing the infection yet, it will usually look pretty raw.

I also want to add that it's possible for people to develop chronic strep throat from not taking their medications properly. It's even more important for parents to ensure that their children are taking the medication properly (which means having it at the same time every day and finishing the whole course, even if you seem to feel better).

Strep can sometimes just keep on living in the throat, even if there aren't any symptoms, so it's important to try and get rid of it the first go. Most doctors won't take out children's tonsils any more so you really need to take care of them, or they could be in a lot of pain for a long time.

By Fa5t3r — On Jul 18, 2013

@KoiwiGal - Honestly, I should think that the one advantage that babies have against strep throat is that their parents would be much more vigilant against it. When I started to get strep throat symptoms I just brushed them off as a flu and didn't think much about it.

It wasn't until it got really bad that I went to the doctor. But, if a baby had the same early symptoms as I did, I think most parents would take them to the doctor fairly quickly. I guess the only trouble would be if the doctor didn't think that babies get strep throat very often and so, didn't test for it when the baby arrives showing the early signs of strep throat.

By KoiwiGal — On Jul 17, 2013

I really hate the idea of a baby getting this kind of infection. I get strep throat a lot and it can be so incredibly painful and debilitating. Your throat looks like an absolute mess and you can barely swallow water, let alone food.

Strep throat is bad in adults, but it would be so much worse for a baby who wouldn't know what was wrong, and couldn't be told that the antibiotics should start working soon. I'm glad they don't seem to get it very often.

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