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Strep Throat: Need-to-Know Info

Strep that's not treated properly can cause problems like rheumatic fever and antibiotic resistance. To protect your child:

Know the symptoms. A sore throat (especially while swallowing), white spots, and enlarged lymph nodes are the hallmarks of strep, but some kids may also  -- or even only  -- have a fever, headaches, body aches, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting. Scarlet fever (a strain of strep) shows up as a red, sandpapery rash on the neck and upper torso. If your child also has a cough, congestion, and hoarseness, it's probably a virus  -- not strep throat.

Get your child tested. If you suspect strep, it's time for a throat culture. The newer rapid swab test delivers a result in minutes. If your doc uses the slow test, wait for the results before starting medication unless the symptoms are textbook; antibiotics won't cure a virus  -- the culprit in the vast majority of sore throats  -- and overuse can lead to resistance.

Use the right treatment. Most effective: penicillin drugs (including Amoxicillin and Ampicillin), since some strep strains are resistant to the newer erythromycin drugs. Your child will no longer be contagious a day after her first dose, and she'll feel better in 24 to 48 hours.