Streptococcal infections are common in young children. They are caused by streptococcal bacteria. These bacteria cause strep throat, scarlet fever, skin infections and tonsillitis.
People can get a streptococcal infection if they touch or kiss the hands or face of someone or if they share dishes or cups with someone who has streptococcal infection.
Streptococcal bacteria are in the saliva of an infected person. Streptococcal bacteria are spread in infected droplets produced when the infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
Streptococcal bacteria also cause skin infections, such as impetigo.
Children with strep throat may have some or all of these signs:
Children younger than 3 years with streptococcal infection rarely have a sore throat. They may have a discharge from the nose, bad breath, fever, irritability and loss of appetite.
A child can get strep throat more than once. A doctor can find out if a child has strep throat by taking a swab from the throat and testing it.
Usually the doctor will treat the infection with an antibiotic such as penicillin. The child should feel better in a day or two after starting the antibiotic but should take all the medicine so that the infection does not come back. The antibiotic will also stop streptococcal bacteria from spreading to others.
If strep throat is not treated it can become a more serious disease called rheumatic fever.
Streptococcus can cause the tonsils at the back of the throat to become red and swollen. For these cases of tonsillitis a doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
If the tonsillitis has been caused by a virus, the doctor will not prescribe antibiotics. Viral tonsillitis usually lasts 4 to 10 days.
Scarlet fever is also a streptococcal infection. It is much like strep throat except for two unusual signs.
A child will usually get scarlet fever only once, because the body becomes immune. Now that antibiotics are used to treat streptococcal infections, scarlet fever is not a common disease. It is found most often in children between the ages of 8 to 10, but can occur at any age. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics and lots of rest.
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