It is important to ease the pain of a sore throat, especially if your child is refusing to eat or drink. When the cause is a viral or bac¬terial infection, there are a number of things you can do to help make your child more comfortable.
First, encourage liquids and don’t worry about solids. If your child doesn’t want to eat for a day or two, that’s okay. But if he doesn’t want to drink, he runs the risk of becoming dehydrated. Cool drinks tend to go down better than warm ones. Popsicles can be a good way to get some fluids into your child.
Occasionally, an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) will help minimize the inflammation and pain. If your child has a fever at the same time, the ibuprofen will treat that as well.
For a severe sore throat, “magic mouthwash” can help tremendously. This mixture of Children’s Benadryl Allergy Liquid and Maalox coats the back of the throat and reduces inflammation.
If a foreign body is the source of the throat pain and you think your child has swallowed something small and relatively blunt, you can try getting him to eat some bread to push it down into the stomach. This will relieve the sensation of having something caught in the throat. However, if your child is complaining of a foreign body sensation and you are not sure what he swallowed, it is best to call your doctor before proceeding.
If dryness is causing the sore throat, try running a humidifier or vaporizer. This will moisturize the air and soothe the throat.
When does my doctor need to be involved?
Call your doctor anytime your child is complaining of a severe sore throat. If he is refusing to drink or eat anything, you should contact your doctor.
If the sore throat continues for several days or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, high fever, swollen glands in the neck, or rash, you should see your doctor.
What tests need to be done, and what do the results mean?
If strep throat is suspected, a strep test can be done. A sterile Q-Tip is rubbed against the back of the throat in the area around the tonsils. With a rapid strep test, the specimen is mixed with a chemical, and within five minutes the test will tell whether there is strep in the sample. With a culture, the Q-Tip is rubbed along a special gel-coated plate, and the plate is kept in an incubator for 24 to 48 hours. If strep is present, the bacteria will grow on the plate.
A rapid strep test is convenient, but it doesn’t pick up all cases of strep throat. In fact, it is only about 80 to 85 percent sensitive. This means that 15 to 20 percent of strep cases register negative on the rapid test.
The culture is more sensitive. If the culture is negative after 48 hours, you can feel confident that your child does not have strep throat. Likewise, if it is positive, the infection is clearly present.
Most pediatricians perform cultures specifically looking for GABHS. However, sometimes a laboratory looks for other bacte¬ria that may grow from the swab. It is important to realize that many bacteria live in the throat normally. These bacteria are called oral flora. When they are present in small numbers, they keep the teeth and mouth healthy. These bacteria may grow on a culture plate, but they almost never need to be treated.