Sore throat in children

Sore throat is a common problem in children and is usually due to a bacterial or viral infection. Usually it resolves without complications but sometimes it requires a treatment with antibiotics.

Sore throat causes:

It mainly depends upon the child’s age and the season, but it is hard to determine the cause of a sore throat basing upon symptoms alone: an examination and laboratory tests are always necessary.


A lot of viruses can cause pain and swelling of the throat. Some viruses can cause a sore throat as part of an upper respiratory infection, like in the common cold. Other common viruses can be influenza, adenovirus, enterovirus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr.

A virus infection usually causes runny nose and congestion, irritation or redness of the eyes, cough, hoarseness, soreness in the roof of the mouth, skin rash, or diarrhea, fever and systemic symptoms like pain.

Goup A streptococcus (GAS)- it is the bacterium that causes strept throat that usually occurs in winter and early spring, and is more common in children of more than 3 years old.

Symptoms often develop suddenly with fever, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands under the jaw, white patches of pus in the tonsils, small red spots on the palate.


The most cases of sore throat are due to viruses, but it is very important to recognize and treat the cases with strept throat to prevent the spread of the infection and potentially serious complications like the rheumatic fever. Because it is not easy to differentiate the two options it is better to call the child’s healthcare provider especially if:

  • The temperature is >101 F or 38.8C
  • Season is late fall, winter, or early spring
  • There is no cough
  • The age of the child is between 3 and 15
  • History of recent contact with someone with strept throat

Two tests can be done to confirm the diagnosis: a rapid test and a culture. The rapid test is ready in a few minutes, while the culture needs 48-72 hours.

When the rapid test is positive the child must be treated with antibiotics, while if it is negative a culture test will be done and the decision to treat or not will follow this result.


Strept sore throat must be treated with antibiotics like amoxicillin two times a day for 10 days. The virus sore throat need to be treated with pain reliever drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen according to the weight.

It is also important to offer to drink a lot of quite cold fluids to prevent dehydration.