Bug of the Month: Strep Throat and Scarlet Fever

throat examTechnical Names: Streptococcal Pharyngitis

NickNames: Scarlet Fever, Strep Throat

What is it: infection of the throat involving the pharynx, tonsils or both

Typical Ages for Illness: school age kids and teens are the biggest population; can occur in adults; rare in children under 2 years of age.

Typical Symptoms:

sore throat and pain with swallowing; swollen neck glands

+/- abdominal pain and headache, common in school-aged kids

+/- fever

+/- sandpaper-like rash: when present, the illness is termed Scarlet Fever

+/-swollen tonsils with pus covering them

Etiology: Group A beta-hemolytic streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes)

Seasonal Issues: outbreaks can occur year round but are more common from Fall to early Spring when people are more in doors and in close contact.

How’s It Spread? Person to person usually through direct contact or respiratory secretions (cough, sneeze)

Incubation Period: 2-5 days

Diagnosis: rapid strep test or throat culture at a doctor’s office

Symptom Duration: symptoms can go away without treatment in a few days; with treatment, improvement typically occurs within 24-48 hours of starting antibiotics.


  • antibiotics once diagnosis is confirmed
  • fluids
  • rest
  • tylenol or motrin for fever and discomfort
  • popcicles, throat lozengers
  • other medications as determined by your child’s doctor

Call Your Pediatrician if your child has:

  • high fever, or fever not gone in 2-3 days
  • vomiting or diarrhea and can’t hydrate well
  • lethargy
  • sick appearance


  • stay home if sick
  • good hand washing
  • having the child cover his or her mouth when coughing, if possible
  • cleaning toys and objects likely contaminated by respiratory droplets

School and After school Activity Issues

  • may return to school when fever free for 24hours and able to eat and drink normally
  • needs to be on antibiotics for 24 hours before returning to school
  • avoid large groups of kids if cough is not controlled to prevent further spread

Internet Resources:

For Parents From KidsHealth

Strep Throat Information

Scarlet Fever Info

For Kids and Teens From KidsHealth

The Scoop on Strep

Teen Info on Strep

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