Sore throat causes
The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection like the common cold, flu or glandular fever.
Bacterial infections are much less common. They cause only 15-30% of sore throats. These infections include streptococcal infections and ear infections.
The medical name for a sore throat or a throat infection is pharyngitis.
Sore throat symptoms
If the cause is flu, your child might also have aches and pains.
It’s more likely to be a streptococcal infection if your child is older than three years, and if he has swollen neck glands, swollen red tonsils and a rash. He might also have a fever, tummy pain and vomiting. This kind of sore throat might not come with a runny nose and cough.
Glandular fever is a relatively common cause of sore throats in older children. If your child has glandular fever, she’ll probably also have swollen lymph glands and be very tired over a long period.
When to see a doctor about your child’s sore throat
You should take your child to the GP if your child:
- has trouble breathing or swallowing
- is drooling more than usual
- complains of a stiff or swollen neck
- has a fever for no apparent reason.
Also see the GP if you’re not sure about your child’s symptoms, but you think he might have a throat infection.
Sore throat treatment
The way you treat a sore throat depends on its cause.
There’s no cure for a sore throat caused by a virus. Antibiotics won’t help with viral infections.
All you can do for a sore throat caused by viral infection is treat the symptoms by:
- giving your child saline nasal drops to help with congestion
- giving your child paracetamol in recommended doses to help with pain
- getting your child to take frequent sips of fluid to help her stay hydrated.
If your child’s sore throat is caused by a streptococcal infection, your doctor will most likely take a swab from your child’s throat for analysis. The doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics (usually penicillin) to treat the infection.
If your child isn’t responding to simple pain relief like paracetamol, your doctor might prescribe a short course of steroids.
If children have a bacterial infection that’s causing pus to build up at the back of the throat, they might need to go into hospital. This condition needs treatment with antibiotics, and children probably also need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.