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Sore throat

Key points to remember about sore throats

  • most sore throats are caused by viruses and need no treatment other than pain relief
  • sometimes children can get strep throat (Group A streptococcus bacteria)
  • a rare complication of strep throat is rheumatic fever
  • Maori and Pacific Island children are most at risk of rheumatic fever, and should see a doctor with any sore throat
  • seek medical attention if the symptoms are not improving after 48 hours or your child develops other symptoms that concern you

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is pain or discomfort in the throat. Often the pain is worse when your child swallows.
Tonsillitis or pharyngitis is the term used when there is swelling and redness (inflammation) of the tonsils and pharynx which lie at the back of the throat.

What causes a sore throat?

Sore throats are common in children. Causes can include:

  • infection by viruses - the most common cause
  • infection by Group A streptococcus bacteria (strep throat) - a less frequent cause

Viral sore throats

Colds and flu viruses commonly cause sore throats / tonsillitis in children. Children often complain of a sore throat at the beginning of a cold. This happens because either:

  • the infection in the nose and sinuses causes drainage down the back of the throat, causing irritation, or
  • there may be direct infection of the throat / tonsils by the virus

Less frequently, glandular fever (Epstein Barr virus) can cause sore throats, particularly in teenagers and young adults.

Strep throat

Group A streptococcus is a bacteria that can cause throat infection / tonsillitis (strep throat) in children and young people

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