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Navigating Our Health: 5 Things To Know About Strep Throat

Last Friday I got home from a long day - let's be honest - a long week of work.  I stopped by my mother-in-law’s house to pick up my first grader and found my usually chatty girl laying on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, complaining of a tummy ache. Ugh….. it’s Friday afternoon at 5!  With all of the germs going around, my mind went straight into Nurse Practitioner mode. I started drilling her with questions and praying…… Please, please, please don’t let this be the stomach bug or even worse…. The FLU!

When I got her home, I checked her Temperature: 101.7.  By this time she was also complaining of a headache. I gave her a dose of “Magic Motrin” as we refer to it in our house, and set her up in her bed with blankets, ice water, and an iPAD with Netflix.  AKA….quarantined.   Within 20 minutes, the Motrin kicked in, her fever was down and she started to act more like herself.  I asked her if she had any other symptoms and she said her “neck hurt a little.” She was pointing at her throat and light bulbs went off!   Fever, headache, tummy ache, and maybe sore throat….. I bet this is strep!

Overnight, we did Motrin every 6 hours and as soon as it would start to wear off, her fever would spike, she would complain of a tummy ache and feel like she was going to throw up. Luckily our pediatrician’s office does walk-in hours on the weekend for sick visits.  So, Saturday morning after a 2-hour wait….. it is flu season…… we got a diagnosis of strep throat! Wahoo! I think I even cheered in the office.  The reason?  It is treatable with an antibiotic and I knew within 24 hours she would be back to normal.

Here are 5 things every parent should know about strep throat:

  1. Kids do not always complain of a sore throat. When I was seeing kids in a pediatric office, sometimes the only complaint a child would have is a headache or tummy ache. Once I looked at their throat there would be indications to test them for strep and sure enough…. it would come back positive! The parents were often so surprised. Symptoms to look for: fever, headache, stomachache, and sore throat.
  2. Strep can be tested in the office with a rapid test. This test involves taking a long q-tip and swabbing the back of the throat and/or tonsils. The swab then gets mixed with a chemical and takes about 5 minutes for a results.  FYI: The kids do not like this test. It makes them gag and some kids with a sensitive gag reflex may vomit. The test is much quicker and easier if you can help calm your child and help them cooperate. Bribing with an ice pop works well!
  3. A medication in the Penicillin family, often Amoxicillin is the first-line of treatment for strep throat. The antibiotic is often prescribed twice a day for 7 to 10 days. If your child has an allergy to Penicillin, Zithromax or another antibiotic can be used. It is very important that your child finishes the entire prescribed course of the medication. It is easy to stop giving the medication once the child is feeling better, but without treating for the full course, the strep bacteria may not fully go away and symptoms will return.
  4. You need to change your child’s toothbrush after being on antibiotic for 24 hours. If you forget to do this, it is possible for your children to re-infect themselves with the bacteria from the toothbrush.
  5. How many times does a child need to be diagnosed with strep throat before having their tonsils out? According to recommendations from the American Academy of Otolaryngology, they recommend a minimum frequency of at least seven episodes in the previous year, at least five episodes in each of the previous two years, or at least three episodes in each of the previous three years.  Remember each child and case can be different. Make sure to talk with your pediatrician to see if he or she thinks your child should see an ENT, which is a physician who specializes in medicine of the Ears, Nose, and Throat.

Here's hoping you have a strep-free month!

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Carrie Snyder

Carrie Snyder, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, is the Women's Health Nurse Navigator. Carrie serves as a liaison between Beebe and the community to help community members navigate Beebe’s services.