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Sore Throat or Strep – How Can You Tell Which is Which

Kids are so predictable – well, at least my kids are -they each have their own unique behavior patterns that tip me off to how they are feeling or what is ailing them.

My twelve year old daughter woke up this morning with a headache, no appetite and was whinier than her normal self. She spent most of the morning laying on the couch – not interested in TV or anything else for that matter – and then suddenly she started throwing up. And there was my cue!! I quickly escorted her to the car and we headed straight to the Urgent Care center where the puking continued. These are my middle daughter’s tell tale signs that she has strep. Every single time she has had strep in her twelve years, the tell tale sign has not been a sore throat, it has been a headache, fever and puking.

My other two kids rarely get strep, more often than not, those two are affected by strep’s cousin – viral pharyngitis. Viral sore throats are characterized by pain, redness in the throat, runny or stuffy nose, hoarseness and cough. However, when they do get strep, they tend to have the “traditional” symptoms of a fever, pain when swallowing, and spots on their tonsils.

So how can you tell the difference between strep throat and a viral sore throat? According to InteliHealth the symptoms of the two are:

  • Viral pharyngitis – Sore throat often occurs with the following symptoms: pain when swallowing; redness in the throat; runny nose; stuffy nose; cough; hoarseness; redness of the eyes; and, in children, diarrhea. In some cases, there can be a painful redness around the mouth or small painful sores on the lips and inside the mouth.
  • Strep throat – With strep throat and other forms of bacterial pharyngitis, sore throat can be accompanied by any of the following symptoms: fever; pain when swallowing; a generally sick feeling (malaise); headache; redness and swelling in the throat; a coating on the tonsils or tongue; and swollen, tender lymph nodes (swollen glands) in the front of the neck. Children also can have nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

However, when in doubt, you should ALWAYS have your child checked by a doctor.

Some kids are more prone to strep than others  and some are simply the “carriers” of strep, never really showing the symptoms themselves. Chances are, your kids will develop their own set of tell tale symptoms making it a little easier for you to figure out what is up.

Next challenge? Keeping the twelve year old from getting bored as she spends her day in bed tomorrow. Luckily she just got a new book for her Kindle and can use part of time reading.

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