Streptococcal infections, or strep infections, are caused by bacteria that your child gets from someone who is already sick with the illness. Kids with strep usually have a very sore throat and a fever. Strep germs are very contagious and are best avoided by washing hands and staying away from sick people. Most strep illnesses happen in the fall, winter, and spring, but your child can pick the illness up from anyone who is sick from it.
What causes streptococcal infections?
Streptococcal infections are caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A streptococcus. These germs can be spread from child to child by sneezing, coughing and talking. Strep germs can also live long enough on objects like doorknobs, toys, cups, and eating utensils for kids to get them that way too.
Are streptococcal infections serious?
Strep throat can be serious if you don’t have your child treated. Strep bacteria can move from the throat and cause other infections like scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, ear infections, and kidney infections.
Can I prevent streptococcal infections?
Yes, wash your hands! Kids need to be taught to wash their hands thoroughly for at least ten seconds, as well as how to cover their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough. These good habits can prevent your child from getting or spreading streptococcal infections.
How do I know if my child has a streptococcal infection?
Kids with a streptococcal infection have a red, sore throat with pus around the tonsils. They sometimes have red or white spots in their mouth or throat. Your child might also have a fever, chills, and he might be nauseous or vomit.
How do I treat streptococcal infections?
Strep infections have to be treated with antibiotics because they are caused by bacteria. At home, you can make your child feel better by giving him paracetamol for fever and making sure he gets lots of bed rest and fluids. He might have trouble swallowing because his throat is sore, so give him soft foods like applesauce, soup and iceblocks. Keep him home from school or childcare until he feels better and he has been treated with antibiotics for at least one day.
Should I call the doctor?
Because streptococcal infections can lead to more serious illnesses, you should always make an appointment to see the doctor if you think your child has one. You should also contact the doctor if your child’s fever is very high or if he is taking antibiotics but doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
What you need to know about streptococcal infections
- Streptococcal infections are caused by bacteria.
- Kids with strep infections usually have a very sore throat and a fever.
- Streptococcal infections are treated with antibiotics.
- Strep infections can lead to more serious illnesses, so you should see your child’s doctor for treatment.
Find more relevant articles and information about streptococcal infections:
- Learn about scarlet fever
- Find more information on ear infections
- Discover the best ways to take a temperature
- Read more about fever
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Monday, 18 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.