Most sore throats are due to viral infections. Often people feel a sore throat at the onset of a respiratory illness. As the virus clings to the upper part of the respiratory tract - and the immune system begins to fight it off, the person experiences a sore throat. As the virus descends, a runny nose and cough can begin. As a child grows and develops a stronger immune system, he or she might have a transient sore throat as they encounter a respiratory virus. The same virus that gives an older child a sore throat or laryngitis can give an infant croup (baby laryngitis) or bronchitis.
Viral sore throats DO NOT NEED ANTIBIOTICS.
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily allows more virulent bacteria to grow. The person can also develop diarrhea from eliminating friendly intestinal bacterial. Another possibility is developing an allergy and not being able to use a class of antibiotics in the future.
Most viral sore throats will resolve within a few days. Our saliva and respiratory secretions are loaded with antibodies and other factors that protect us from bacteria like strep. Children are also vaccinated against pneumococcus and haemophilus. Viral infections can weaken the respiratory lining, making a child more susceptible to a bacterial ear infection, sinusitis or bronchopneumonia. That's why doctors become concerned if a child had a cough/cold and low grade fever that starts spiking after several days.
A typical scenario for a viral sore throat is one that is more intense at the beginning, and starts to improve the second day. Also, if the sore throat waxes and wanes through the day or hurts when the child coughs. With viral illnesses, there's often an associated runny nose, or a cough will begin.
Ways of differentiating a bacterial sore throat that requires antibiotics: Some symptoms of strep or a bacterial sore throat are a fever over 102 beyond the first day of a sore throat. You have to consider the possibility of strep or another secondary bacterial infection. Your child should take antibiotics to avoid severe forms of strep. Untreated strep can also induce an autoimmune illness, rheumatic fever, that can cause injury to the heart and joints.
Ways to help a sore throat
- Getting more sleep helps the immune system.
- Cranberry juice, lemonade, and other tart juices contain vitamin C as well as other substances that are good for mucosal immunity. Rose hip containing teas (e.g. Red , Lemon or or Wild Berry Zinger by Celestial Seasonings, the decaffeinated fruit teas by Bigelow, or the Rose hip/ or fruit teas of the Pompadour company are available in most supermarkets).
- Older kids can gargle with salt water, or a combination of a pinch of salt, a cap of peroxide, and a squirt of lemon swirled together in a small cup.
- Miso soup, or chicken soup can help. Besides having some salt, chicken soup contains zinc, another factor that helps sore throats.
- Horseradish helps fight bacteria. You can add some to applesauce.
- A mouthwash called Biotene can help impair strep adherence. It is available in many pharmacies and is marketed to adults with decreased saliva. It's safe to use in children and also is available as a toothpaste.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to cold. It's Ok to run around or exercise in cold weather, however "getting a chill" (i.e. waiting for a bus, or being outdoors without a hat or scarf ) is not good.