Some Questions about sore throat
How is a sore throat diagnosed?
In many cases of sore throat, no tests are needed.
Depending on the symptoms and signs some of the following may be performed:
- throat swab (to test for strep throat)
- blood test ( to test for glandular fever)
What puts my child at risk of getting a sore throat?
Sore throats caused by viruses are common in all children.
Strep throat is more common in school-age children. Sore throats in children under three are seldom due to strep throat.
In New Zealand, Maori and Pacific Island children are at greatest risk of developing complications from strep throat (see What are the complications of strep throat?).
How long do sore throats usually last?
Viral sore throat
- infections caused by viruses usually just run their course
- most symptoms caused by a cold-type virus start improving after several days and are gone in a week to 10 days
- symptoms caused by strep throat usually go away with or without antibiotic treatment
- antibiotics can have a small effect on the pain and discomfort associated with strep throat
- antibiotics are especially recommended for children with strep throat who are at risk of developing rheumatic fever (Maori and Pacific Island children). This is because unless the strep bacteria are killed with antibiotics, these children are still at risk of getting rheumatic fever (see What are the complications of strep throat?)
Glandular fever (Epstein Barr virus) symptoms can last several weeks.
What are the complications of strep throat?
- without treatment, strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever in at-risk people (see the rheumatic fever fact sheet)
- rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart
- in New Zealand, Maori and Pacific Island children are most at risk of developing rheumatic fever and should see a doctor with any sore throat
- in rare cases an abscess (collection of pus) can develop in the tonsil - symptoms of this are one sided swelling, worsening pain and difficulty swallowing.
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