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How do I Recognize Strep Throat in Toddlers?

Recognizing strep throat in toddlers involves spotting key symptoms: a sudden, severe sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Look for red, swollen tonsils, possibly with white patches or streaks. Toddlers may also exhibit a rash, indicating scarlet fever. For a closer look at these symptoms and effective treatments, continue exploring our comprehensive guide with illustrative images. What signs have you noticed?
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Strep throat in toddlers isn’t that common,and slightly older children and teens are more vulnerable to the illness. Many of the symptoms in all age groups are the same, but toddlers may not get as ill, initially. This age group usually can’t accurately describe symptoms to parents, so it can take a little guesswork and sleuthing to determine the likely causes of slight illness. The only way to verify strep throat is through lab or rapid strep testing, so if you notice symptoms that might be strep, take the child to a medical professional, because the disease requires antibiotics and may lead to severe complications without treatment.

The basic symptoms of strep throat include fever, which is often no higher than 101°F (38.33°C). Older kids may have higher fever, but the absence of fever is not completely unusual in either group. Additional symptoms noted in toddlers are irritability, a small amount of clear nasal congestion, and stomach upset or the refusal of food. Toddlers who can communicate could complain of sore throat and sometimes the voice may sound a little hoarse.

Antibiotics are effective in treating strep throat in toddlers.
Antibiotics are effective in treating strep throat in toddlers.

Some other signs could include tiredness, though not all children seem particularly sick. Occasionally, this age group will also have a tiny rash between the mouth and the nose. Other children may have a rash on the trunk or sometimes on the neck. A gentle examination of the lymph nodes at the neck or groin could also reveal a small amount of swelling.

Parents looking in the child’s throat might see enlarged and/or red tonsils. Sometimes, strep throat in toddlers may cause white or yellow patches on the tonsils or back of the throat. Patches on the tongue, though, suggest conditions like thrush.

Toddlers with strep throat often have a fever.
Toddlers with strep throat often have a fever.

Certain symptoms appear to rule out strep. Extreme nasal congestion, as opposed to a slightly runny nose, strong mucus-producing cough, or diarrhea, could be signs of different illnesses and their appearance might make strep a less likely diagnosis. On the other hand, a slight cough could suggest strep. There’s a great deal of nuance in determining which symptoms may indicate strep and which symptoms suggest it isn’t present.

A hoarse voice may be a symptom of strep throat in toddlers.
A hoarse voice may be a symptom of strep throat in toddlers.

Since a home diagnosis isn’t possible, the best thing to do if you suspect that a toddler has strep throat s to see a child’s medical provider. Very active cases of strep are often diagnosed with a rapid strep test that takes just a few minutes to perform. Sometimes, rapid tests aren’t accurate enough, in which case a throat culture can be obtained and evaluated in a laboratory. Positive cases can usually be confirmed in about 24 hours.

A severe runny nose can be a sign of strep throat.
A severe runny nose can be a sign of strep throat.

Treatment for strep throat in toddlers is straightforward: antibiotics are given to kill the offending bacteria. Depending on the antibiotic, children might need to take medicine for up to two weeks. They need to finish all medicine, even if the symptoms are gone, to completely eradicate the infection. If symptoms return or are not improving during or after treatment, a different antibiotic may be necessary.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

tdavis
My son recently tested positive for strep throat and experienced a high fever. He felt better after starting his antibiotics for strep. If your child has strep throat, you should replace his or her toothbrush to prevent a reinfection after you start the antibiotics.

Since strep can be passed to other children and adults in your household, you should also make sure that you wash all of your child's eating utensils, plates and cups in hot water.

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    • Antibiotics are effective in treating strep throat in toddlers.
      By: NorGal
      Antibiotics are effective in treating strep throat in toddlers.
    • Toddlers with strep throat often have a fever.
      By: hartphotography
      Toddlers with strep throat often have a fever.
    • A hoarse voice may be a symptom of strep throat in toddlers.
      By: Dmitry Naumov
      A hoarse voice may be a symptom of strep throat in toddlers.
    • A severe runny nose can be a sign of strep throat.
      By: mellsva
      A severe runny nose can be a sign of strep throat.
    • A slight cough could indicate strep throat in toddlers.
      By: mbt_studio
      A slight cough could indicate strep throat in toddlers.
    • Fever can be a sign of strep throat in children.
      By: irinapiter
      Fever can be a sign of strep throat in children.
    • The basic symptoms of strep throat include fever, but the absence of fever is not completely unusual in either group.
      By: Tatyana Gladskih
      The basic symptoms of strep throat include fever, but the absence of fever is not completely unusual in either group.
    • Strep throat in toddlers is often accompanied by enlarged or red tonsils.
      By: snapgalleria
      Strep throat in toddlers is often accompanied by enlarged or red tonsils.