Family Health Guide

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Sore Throat

It’s often the first sign that your child’s coming down with something -- a scratchy throat that hurts when she swallows. Medically known as pharyngitis, sore throat is usually caused by a viral infection like the cold or flu. It often gets better on its own as the body fights off the virus, but if it persists you should see a doctor to get a throat culture for strep throat, a common bacterial infection. Sore throat can also be caused by tonsillitis, coxsackie, scarlet fever, or more rarely, epiglottis. Read more about the various causes of sore throat:

Strep Throat

Common in kids, strep is caused by the bacterium Group A streptococcus. The tonsils often become very sore and swollen. Strep is extremely contagious and should be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to rheumatic fever, which can damage heart valves.


This common illness is caused by the inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils, or those fleshy pads at the rear sides of your kid’s throat that you can see when he says “ahh.” While most cases of tonsillitis are viral, some cases are bacterial and require antibiotics. Repeated bouts of tonsillitis may lead your pediatrician to recommend a tonsillectomy, or surgical removal of the tonsils.


Coxsackievirus is a viral infection common in young children that's usually seen in summer and fall. The coxsackie strain known as hand, foot and mouth disease (not to be confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which is found in farm animals), produces a fever, painful blisters on the tongue, throat or the inside of cheeks, and a rash on the hands and soles of the feet. Another type of coxsackie commonly causes an infection called herpangina, which results in blisters that look like red rings in the back of the throat and tonsils. Read more about coxsackie

Scarlet Fever

In addition to a sore throat, the hallmark of scarlet fever is a rash, which can cover much of the body and looks like a bad sunburn. The same bacteria that cause strep throat also cause scarlet fever. It’s important to treat it, since like strep throat, it can lead to rheumatic fever. Read more about scarlet fever


Ever since the United States started mandating the Hib (Haemophilus influenza B) vaccine, this condition has become increasingly rare, as has bacterial meningitis and some forms of pneumonia (these bacteria can cause all three). When it does occur, it’s characterized by the inflammation of the epiglottis, the small lid of cartilage that covers your child’s windpipe. Increased swelling and inflammation of the epiglottis and its surrounding tissue can block air to the lungs, which can make this affliction life-threatening. If you suspect your child has epiglottitis (telltale signs include trouble swallowing or breathing, and blueish lips or skin), contact your doctor immediately.