Dear Dr. Manny,

My kids keep getting sore throats in the winter. I can’t help but wonder. How do I know whether they have strep throat? When do I need to get them tested? 

Thanks for your question.

Not all sore throats are the same. Some of them are related to allergies, some of them are from colds, and some of them are caused by the streptococcus bacteria.

You can’t verify for sure whether you or your child has strep throat without going to a doctor.

A sore throat that stems from a cold usually comes with a slew of respiratory ailments. Runny noses, coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes are all signs of a cold, not strep throat.

Strep comes suddenly. Its symptoms include a sore throat, red tonsils, white spots on the tonsils, pain when swallowing, fever, swollen neck glands, loss of appetite, headaches, and abdominal pain.

If you have any of these symptoms, check with a doctor, who can do a simple swab to verify. It’s important that you treat strep with antibiotics.

Strep is common in all ages, but it happens more in children than adults. It can also be worse in children.

Some kids are more prone to get strep more than others because they have a genetic weakness to Strep A, the bacteria which causes the infection. Typically, those children also developed tonsillitis.

Soothing a strep throat involves lots of rest and fluids. Gargling salt water will help bring the inflammation down somewhat. Eat soft, easy-to-swallow foods like mashed potatoes and applesauce. Use a humidifier.

Prevention of strep throat can be as easy as washing your hands before you eat. Another useful prevention method involves cleaning the house frequently, especially the bathroom

More: Tonsillectomy Complications