When sore throats go bad: strep throats and rheumatic fever.

Most sore throats are caused by viruses, usually disappear after a day or two and need no other treatment than pain relief, such as Pamol®. However, if your child’s sore throat hasn’t cleared up after a couple of days, it’s advisable to see a doctor. It could be ‘strep throat’, a common condition caused by bacteria called Group A Streptococcus, which can be easily treated with antibiotics1.

Strep throat is more common in school age children - it’s very rare in children who are under three years old. In New Zealand, Maori and Pacific children are at the greatest risk of developing complications from strep throat2.

Most strep throats get better and don't lead to rheumatic fever. However, in a small number of people, an untreated strep throat can develop into rheumatic fever, an autoimmune disease where the child’s immune system attacks their heart instead of the germs from an illness - causing lasting scarring of the heart valves2.

If your child is given antibiotics for strep throat, it’s important they take them for the whole 10 days, even if they feel better, to stop the sore throat turning into rheumatic fever1. You can learn more here

How to treat viral sore throats1:

  • Give paracetamol (such as Pamol®), to help ease the discomfort of a sore throat. Make sure you follow the dosage instructions on the bottle – or see Pamol’s Little Helper to ensure you give the correct dose.
  • Gargle with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt per glass of water).
  • Throat sprays can help, although many children don’t like them!
  • Sucking on lozenges can help by increasing saliva production, although they are not recommended in younger children as they can be a choking hazard.
  • Honey may help to soothe sore throats. Give your child a teaspoon of honey to suck on, or stir it into a drink (provided they don’t have a allergy to honey-based products and it’s not recommended for children younger than 1 year)3.

If you suspect your child’s sore throat could be strep throat, see a doctor as soon as possible.

References: 1. www.kidshealth.org.nz/sore-throat-more-detail Accessed June 2015. 2. www.rheumaticfever.health.govt.nz. Accessed May 2015. 3. Do cough and cold preparations work in children? BPJ Issue 29 July 2010. PAMOL® for the treatment of child pain and fever. Pamol® contains paracetamol 250mg/5mL. Always read the label and use as directed. Incorrect use can be harmful. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional. ® Registered Trademark. Aspen Pharmacare C/- Healthcare Logistics, Auckland, TAPS PP6685.