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 Medical Self-Care: Childhood Sore Throat 
 
There are 2 kinds of sore throats:
  • Bacterial sore throats usually bring a high fever, headaches, or swollen neck glands. But some-times children with bacterial sore throats have no other problems. Strep throat is one kind of bacterial sore throat. Antibiotics can help cure a bacterial sore throat.
  • Viral sore throats are more common. They may or may not bring the same problems as a bacterial sore throat. You can’t cure a viral sore throat with antibiotics.

Take your child to the doctor if they have a bad sore throat. Sore throats can lead to other problems like abscesses, kidney infections, or rheumatic heart disease. The doctor may take a throat culture to find out what is wrong. The doctor may give your child antibiotics if the child has strep or some other bacterial sore throat.

Questions to Ask

Is the sore throat very bad, and is it very hard for your child to swallow or breathe?Yes: Seek Care
No
Is this true?
  • Your child can’t open his or her mouth all the way.
Yes:See Doctor
No
Does your child have any of these problems with the sore throat?
  • Fever
  • Swollen or sore neck glands
  • Headache
  • Ear pain or tugging at the ears
  • Bad breath
  • Doesn’t want to eat
  • Throwing up
  • Stomach pain
Yes:See Doctor
No
Are there bright red or white spots at the back of your child’s throat?Yes:See Doctor
No
Does someone else in the family have strep throat? Or does your child get strep throat often?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Has your child had the sore throat more than 2 weeks?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Self-Care

Self-Care Tips

Try these tips for your child’s sore throat pain:

  • Have them gargle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1/2 cup of warm water. Have them gargle every few hours. Only do this with children over 8 years old.
  • Give them plenty of warm drinks like tea and soup. Your child can drink the tea plain or with honey. (Don’t give honey to a baby under 1 year old.)
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier in the room where your child spends most of their time. Clean it every day. Use distilled, not tap water.
  • Feed your child foods that are soft and/or cold. The food should be easy to swallow. Don’t feed them spicy foods.
  • Have them suck on a piece of hard candy or a cough drop if they are 5 or more years old. You can give corn syrup to a younger child.
  • Give your child acetaminophen for the pain and fever.

    (Note: Do not give aspirin to anyone under 19 years old unless your doctor tells you to. Aspirin and other medicines that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that can kill.)

  • Don’t use throat sprays. Some throat sprays have benzocaine. Benzocaine bothers some children.
  • Keep your child away from second-hand smoke.
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