“My throat hurts, Mommy …” Those are words every parent dreads hearing, especially this time of year, when colds and flus and plenty of who-knows-what are running rampant. Some woeful pipes are easy to explain — hay fever and allergies, for one, or maybe going overboard cheering for a favorite basketball team. Sleeping with your mouth open can cause some tenderness in the morning, but the majority of sore throats are caused by infection.
Viruses Vs. Bacteria
“There are two types of ‘germs’ that infect us,” says Chuck Kelly, M.D., of Pediatric Care of Kentucky. “Viruses and bacteria, and it is no different with throats.” He points out that it is very important to determine which type of infection your child has, as that will determine the proper treatment method. “Most human infections, including those of the throat, are viral and will go away in about seven to 10 days, no matter what we do,” he says. Viral infections are typically accompanied by upper respiratory symptoms, explains Kelly, like a runny or stuffy nose, a low-grade fever, or a cough from post-nasal drip. Unfortunately, infections caused by viruses won’t respond to antibiotics, so all you can really do is have your child rest and wait it out.
“If these symptoms are present, this is most likely a viral infection and not much can really be done,” says Kelly.
If your child has a sore throat but no cold symptoms like those mentioned above, or he has a sore throat and a high fever, or has a sore throat that gets worse, it’s time to call the doctor. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection, like tonsillitis, strep throat or even whooping cough, all of which are very contagious. Children are very likely to have strep throat, so a prompt visit to your pediatrician for antibiotics, is your best defense.
Soothe the Savage Throat
When waiting out a sore throat, there are a few things you can do to help ease the discomfort. Kelly suggests taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen (but not Tylenol), and consuming cool liquids or popsicles. Parents can also try a teaspoon of honey to help with cough in children 1 year old and older. Other tips include eating soft foods like jello or sherbert, gargling one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water twice a day and using a humidifier. Coughing kids should always cover their mouths, get plenty of rest, wash hands often and of course, get plenty of rest. “Nothing helps your immune system more than sleep!” says Kelly.