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Strep Throat Symptoms

Symptoms of Childhood Illnesses


Updated May 16, 2014

Nurse examining girl (8-10), smiling
Jose Luis Pelaez/Iconica/Getty Images
Parents and doctors sometimes think that they can tell when a child has strep throat based on certain signs or symptoms, such as how their tonsils look or by how their breath smells.

Unfortunately, without a rapid strep test or a throat culture, your doctor will often be wrong and your child will be treated with antibiotics unnecessarily if he gets a prescription every time he has a sore throat and they rely on those kinds of subjective symptoms.

Strep Throat Symptoms

Classic strep throat symptoms include:
  • fever
  • sore throat (pain on swallowing)
  • red tonsils that might have a thick white exudate (pus) on them
  • swollen lymph nodes (glands) that can be tender
  • the sandpaper like rash of scarlet fever
  • other associated symptoms, like a headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
Other things to look for that can make it more likely that your child's sore throat is caused by strep includes that your child doesn't have a cough and that he was exposed to strep in the previous 2 weeks.

Also remember that your child doesn't have to have tonsils to get strep throat. Even children who have had a tonsillectomy can still get strep throat.

And keep in mind that just because your child has all of the classic symptoms of strep throat, that doesn't mean that he will actually have strep. Many viruses, including mono, will cause very similar symptoms, which is why a strep test or throat culture is so important.

1 Evidence-based emergency medicine/rational clinical examination abstract. The clinical diagnosis of streptococcal pharyngitis. Hafner JW - Ann Emerg Med - 01-JUL-2005; 46(1): 87-9
2 Pharyngitis. Vincent MT - Am Fam Physician - 15-MAR-2004; 69(6): 1465-70

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  7. Strep Throat Symptoms - Childhood Illnesses

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