Question

Strep Throat

How can I tell if my child has as strep throat or a cold?

A Answers (3)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Even if you're not a doc, you can get an inkling of the difference between strep throat and a sore throat just by taking a quick peek into your child's mouth. Strep throat -- a bacterial infection caused by the streptococcus bacterium -- is typically diagnosed by a red throat with or without pus. Moms and docs also tend to note a distinctive odor -- "strep breath" -- that smells different (and worse) than when Junior has a cold. If the sore throat is present without nasal dripping, then it's most likely strep and not a cold or other infection. Your child may feel a little more lethargic, have a fever, and even stomach pain, or none of the above.

    If you suspect strep, you'll want to have your child's throat swabbed and the cells cultured to ID whether the bacteria are present. This laboratory test, the gold standard, takes twenty-four hours to confirm the presence of the virus, but many docs do a preliminary rapid antibody test (or rapid test) that recognizes strep, and takes only five minutes. If the rapid test is positive, your doc will prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. If it's negative, she will still order a throat culture or a DNA probe (a more specific test) to definitively rule out strep throat. The results usually come back the next day.
  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    Strep is more likely if a child has a raw throat and difficulty swallowing minus the drippiness. A cold causes a drippy nose and throat. Also, strep rarely hits a child under one year old, while a baby can get a cold or flu in the first few months of life.
  • AStacy Wiegman, PharmD, Pharmacy, answered
    You should be able to tell if your child has strep throat or a cold by observing his symptoms. If along with his sore throat he has a runny nose, a cough, hoarseness and red eyes, it’s probably a cold. But if his sore throat gets worse instead of better and he has a high fever, trouble swallowing, headache, swollen lymph nodes in his neck, nausea or a rash, he may have strep throat. Strep throat is an infection caused by bacteria and requires treatment with an antibiotic, so call your doctor if think your child has it.
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