Strep throat in infants: A common diagnosis?

Recurrent strep throat isn't likely a sign of an underlying problem with a child's immune system. Children who develop strep throat repeatedly may have contact with a carrier of strep, likely at home or in a child care setting — or may be strep carriers themselves. A strep carrier is someone who still has the strep-causing bacteria, but who has been treated and no longer has symptoms.

Strep throat is an infection caused by a bacterium known as group A streptococcus. Strep throat can occur at any age, even during infancy. However, strep throat is most common in school-age children and young adults.

For the few infants who develop strep throat, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Refusal to breast-feed or drink from a bottle
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Red throat or tonsils
  • Occasionally, a fine, red rash on the torso, arms and legs

Strep throat is diagnosed with a throat culture, in which the doctor swabs the child's throat and tests the sample for the presence of strep bacteria. Treatment for strep throat is typically a course of antibiotics. Recurrent strep throat is often treated with a different antibiotic from the one prescribed originally. In some cases, surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) may be the most appropriate treatment.

Last Updated Jul 19, 2019

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