During colds and flu season, it is not uncommon for sore throat to spread around the office or in the classroom, too. This is especially true for children and teens, who are most susceptible to developing sore throats, according to Mayo Clinic. Here’s what parents need to know about sore throats and ways you can comfort a child who has it:
What causes a sore throat The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection like the cold or flu, says BabyCenter. It usually shows up early on, so you might notice that your child will have it then start to develop more symptoms of the cold or flu like fever and muscle aches.
A sore throat can also be caused by a bacterial infection, the most common of which is streptococcus (strep), according to Mayo Clinic. Whooping cough, also bacterial, can also be the culprit. Less common sore throat causes are measles, chicken pox and croup.
In some cases, the cause isn’t an infection, but irritants in the air. Your child may be sensitive to dust, pollen, smoke or animals like cats or dogs. And when exposed to these, they can cause your child to have cold-like allergic reactions which can include sneezing, runny nose and a sore throat.
So, what’s the difference between tonsillitis and a sore throat? To put it simply, a sore throat is a general pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat. Tonsillitis happens when the tissue at either side of the back of your child’s throat becomes inflamed, which not only causes a sore throat, but also swollen tonsils and difficulty swallowing. Most cases of tonsillitis are also due to an infection, and it’s also most common in children.
Treatment and when to call a doctor The body is able to fight a viral infection on its own, so a sore throat caused by a virus, like the cold or flu virus, goes away on its own over time. One that’s caused by a bacterial infection, on the other hand, may require antibiotic treatment upon the advice of a doctor.
Talk to a pediatrician, who will be able to diagnose if the infection is viral of bacterial, if your child’s sore throat:
is bright red or swollen
causes difficulty with swallowing or breathing
causes a stiff neck
is accompanied by high fever
lasts longer than a week
Rarely is a sore throat a cause for alarm or a reason for a trip to the emergency room. “The only throat condition that's truly an emergency is epiglottitis, which is now extremely rare, thanks to the Hib vaccine,” says BabyCenter. Epiglottitis is an infection of the flap of the throat tissue that makes it hard to swallow and breathe. It can cause a high fever, raspy breathing and drooling. Call for help immediately if you see these signs in your child. How to soothe a sore throat Because sore throats are scratchy, itchy and even painful, they can cause a considerable amount of discomfort. Soothe your child’s sore throat by giving him sips of warm liquid to ease the pain. Try plain warm water or tea with lemon. Cold foods can help too. You can give her ice cream, a popsicle, or a cold glass of water or juice. Avoid anything with citrus like calamansi or orange juice and hard or crunchy food, as this can irritate the throat more.
If your child is old enough to gargle, make a homemade mouthwash of warm water (200 ml) mixed with salt (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). If your child’s sore throat is really bothering him, ask your doctor if your child can take paracetamol or suck on throat lozenges.
Give your child lots of fluid if he also has a cold, and if you have a humidifier, this can help with both a sore throat and a runny nose.
Consult a medical professional for any concerns regarding your child’s health.